No Client is Worth Even One Day in Jail!

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Anyone-You-Know
“We are again honored to have a third guest post from our friend and Richmond Chapter member, Rumbi Bwerinofa, CPA/CFF.  Rumbi is a Director of the Queens/Brooklyn Chapter of the New York State Society of CPAs and a member of the NYSSCPA Litigation Services Committee. She is the editor of TheFStudent.com, where she discusses financial forensic issues.” – Charles Lawver-2014 RVACFES Chapter President…

I don’t know about you but I have an over sized fear of jail.  Before I can even begin to conceive the possibility of being locked up and dealing with fellow prisoners and guards, there is one thing that terrifies me the most.. the public toilet!  It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking a low-security or a maximum-security prison, neither destination comes with a private bathroom!   The thought of the public facilities is my personal biggest motivation for staying out of jail.  So, since I don’t want a professional error or  oversight as a forensic accountant to land me in a place without a private bathroom , I try to make sure that I stay aware of all the practice connected ways I might end up there.

As a credentialed forensic accountant [such as a practitioner Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) or a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)], the principal way to stay out of jail is to adhere strictly to the requirements of the professional bodies that govern your certification.  The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Association of Fraud Examiners (ACFE),  the bodies that issue the CFF and CFE, respectively, require that holders of their certifications meet defined educational and professional standards, abide by the organizational codes of conduct and ethics and complete a prescribed number of  hours of continuing professional education.

For any certified forensic accountant, complying with the requirements of her credentialing body requires advocating for the truth. This means that, both as a consultant and as an expert witness, CFFs and CFEs are bound by a duty to the truth, whether or not this makes the client happy.  Forensic accountants should never lie, steal or cheat on behalf of their client. This type of behavior, in addition to violating the ethical standards of their certification(s),  compromises the practitioner personally and, if prosecuted,   is an immediate career ender.   Forensic experts who are found to have falsified information in court cases will likely face prison time; every case that they’ve ever worked on will be tainted and verdicts in which they’ve been involved may even be overturned and wrongly convicted people sue and be awarded damages.

Forensic accountants must always be aware of the laws of the jurisdiction in which they’re practicing. For example, in some states, some of the work that’s performed by forensic accountants during their investigations is considered to be private investigator work, requiring that the practitioner  hold a private investigator license. The AICPA created a matrix with very valuable information about the rules in each state, and knowing these rules can go a long way in keeping you out of trouble.  It’s also important to know just what types of information can be examined without the need for a warrant or subpoena and to be sure to obtain the necessary authorization when needed.  It’s the goal of forensic accountants to get to the truth, but we can’t help ourselves or anyone else do that if our attempts to do so land us in jail.  If any forensic accountant is unclear or has any doubts at all about the legality of any of the procedural elements involved in his or her practice, they should consult either their employing attorneys or their own legal counsel.

If work takes the forensic accountant on international assignments, it’s especially important for her to be even more careful about how she goes about her work.  It’s imperative that she consult with local experts so that she’s aware of what she can and cannot legally do.  US laws are no longer in effect once you’re operating in another country, so all forensic practitioners must be aware that there are likely different privacy and investigative laws relating to just who and who cannot perform certain types of investigations.

I certainly don’t want to go to jail, period,  but I really would not want to be stuck in jail in another country, subject to an unfamiliar legal system,  and not knowing the first thing about how to extricate myself.

So, as practicing CFFs and CFEs it’s important for us to abide by all the standards and rules of our credentialing organizations,  but especially with those regarding advocacy  for the truth,  demonstration of  high moral character and compliance with the law.  Whatever it is that keeps you from breaking the law,  be it a desire for a private bathroom,  or for anything else,  never forget – no client is worth even one day in  jail!

Please make plans to join us on April 16-17th, 2014 for the Central Virginia Chapter’s seminar on the Topic of Introduction to Fraud Examination for 16 CPE ($200.00 for early Registration)! For details see our Prior Post entitled, “Save the Date”!

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