Building a fraud examination program

By Mary-Jo Kranacher, MBA, CFE, CPA

Fraud Edge

Most academics are aware of the red tape entailed in introducing a new course in higher education. Few, however, have ever actually experienced the challenge of creating an entirely new academic program, suffering through the organizational politics and bureaucracy of the approval process, and marketing the finished product. Following is an account by Mike Shapeero, Ph.D., ACFE Educator Associate, and Blair Staley, D.B.A., ACFE Educator Associate, of what Professors Michael Blue, Ph.D., CFE, CPA; Shapeero, Staley, and other colleagues are accomplishing in a new fraud examination program at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. 

Historically, most fraud examiners didn't plan to be fraud examiners. Instead, they worked as accountants, auditors, attorneys, or in law enforcement. And when circumstances arose that warranted an investigation of fraud allegations, most had to learn on the job.

Meanwhile on college campuses, undergraduate accounting curricula barely touched on the subject of fraud. This began to change following the financial reporting scandals at Enron, WorldCom, and others. Suddenly, colleges were talking about offering classes in the "hot" field of fraud examination. This column describes our experiences developing a fraud examination program at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

Accounting professor Michael Blue had long been interested in teaching fraud examination principles. As a CFE and experienced U.S. Navy fraud investigator, he recognized that any program of study would have to cover a wide variety of knowledge and skills from a number of disciplines. During 2002, he held discussions with faculty from several academic departments and reviewed descriptions of the university's existing courses. This work led to several conclusions: one class wouldn't provide adequate coverage, any program in fraud examination should be interdisciplinary, and new classes would have to be developed.

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