Communicating Examination Results

There’s no question that communicating the results of a fraud examination in written form poses unique challenges.  Fraud Examiners (FA’s) are presenting sensitive, often controversial, information that people are,  at best,  ambivalent about hearing  and with which they may not agree and even may find threatening.  Also, the audience for your report can include the attorney or company management that commissioned it, all the way to third party individuals whom they authorize to see it and who may  have no knowledge of the details of the case at all.

What is beyond question is that, no matter what issues are dealt with in your report, how you choose to present those issues and observations can have a profound effect on how they’re finally resolved.  As experienced practitioners have often pointed out, a well defined methodology for developing and presenting the facts can help ensure consistency and quality in the fraud examination report writing process.

Fraud examination is an investigative process followed by a descriptive process involving  both oral and written forms.  In preparing your approach to the written description of every identified issue,  in brief notes, state the defining  condition, the criteria which make the issue meaningful,  its cause and the issue’s resulting impact.  Then, before drafting anything, again for each issue considered for inclusion in your report, answer the following questions in your own mind; 1) what happened?  2) why did it happen? 3) is the issue significant enough to be included formally in your report? 4) what needs to be done (if anything) and by whom to address the identified issue (is it actionable)? and 4) is this issue related to other, follow-on issues and, if so, how?

When all  the issues have passed the above test, you should re-examine them individually to determine how they all can be best presented to the classes of your expected readers.  Will only your employing attorney and her client see the report?  Or will there be a wider audience and what will be its orientation?  This step is often skipped and it shouldn’t be.  A report is only as good as its value to a given reader.  Shaping a report to meet the needs of those who will be using it, consciously designing it to meet those needs, is a valuable service we can provide our clients.

After you’ve verified and double checked the facts, you’re ready to write.  Always lead off your report with the most important issue you’ve uncovered and then succinctly present background material related to that issue.  Follow the first issue with the next most important and so on to the end.  Try to avoid emotional or dramatic words that might cause readers to become defensive such as, “all, always, never, none, discovered, revealed, uncovered, finding, and issue”; readers associate such words with fault finding and their use implies a condescending tone to many people.  So craft your sentences so that these types of words are unnecessary.

Finally, the objective of an examination report is to convey information clearly and accurately.  For communication to be effective, it must transmit its message in a way that’s easy for the reader to understand.   Any report that fails to do these things, fails in its purpose and blunts the impact of your hard investigative work.

 

 

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