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Anatomy of denials

Distinguish truth from deception

Learning these principles will help you distinguish between good and poor denials and make you a better fraud examiner, executive and decision-maker.

What’s a “good” denial? It’s a truthful statement that helps close the door on an allegation. Notice I didn’t say it does close the door; it helps close the door. Evidence ultimately determines the truth. However, we can rely on a good denial. It helps disprove the allegation. It isn’t, by itself, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but it does offer evidence the allegation is false.

A good denial, of course, must be truthful. In the criminal setting, “I am not guilty,” is considered a quasi-good denial. By “quasi” I mean it’s a good denial in this very specific setting. It’s “truthful” since all those arrested are, in fact, “not guilty” until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if the subject did the act, they’re telling the truth with this statement. Likewise, the denial “I am innocent” is truthful in the criminal setting for the same reasons. Both are quasi-good denials even if they did that of which they’re accused. But those denials offer little to close the door on allegations. “Not guilty” and “innocent” are mutually understood in the criminal setting.

However, “not guilty” and “innocent” outside the court systems aren’t mutually understood. Outside the court systems (criminal and civil) there’s no need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt or with a preponderance of evidence. Therefore, these denials aren’t so good when used in non-court settings. So, when a wife accuses a husband of infidelity, his “I am innocent,” isn’t a good denial. The term, “innocent” lacks specificity and is subject to many interpretations outside the court setting.


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