Good guys vs. bad guys

By Tiffany Couch, CFE, CPA/CFF

Fraud Basics: Fundamentals for all

"I love getting bad guys — I think that would be so fun to do with you!" said the prospective job applicant sitting across from me. I'd just asked her why she would want to come to work for my firm.

I considered my next move carefully. "Tell me how you would feel about working for one of those bad guys," I said. The furrowed brow and crook of her neck indicated that she was perplexed. I obliged her. "Well, in this office we work for white-collar criminals, tax evaders and people sometimes perceived as the ‘bad guys.' So how would you feel about that?" I asked. I then sat back to observe what her verbal and nonverbal cues would be (I practice my interviewing skills any chance I get, don't you?). She was suddenly parched, swallowed multiple times and took a deep breath before answering, "I didn't think you would ever do such a thing. I mean, I guess, well … I always thought of you as someone who worked for the good guys."

I didn't hire the applicant.

I had a similar conversation with a fraud examiner over lunch during a recent speaking engagement. She clearly was frustrated by her clients who chose not to prosecute their alleged fraudsters. She told the group at our table about a couple of prosecutions that had resulted in the alleged fraudster "only having to do community service and a small amount of restitution." She was physically and emotionally upset about these outcomes. My curiosity got the better of me and I asked, "Why does this bother you so much?" She explained that she had put so much work into these cases and it wasn't "fair" or "right" that these people avoided more formal or significant punishment for their alleged crimes.

I gently reminded her that it wasn't our job to exact punishment. Most importantly, our own ACFE Code of Professional Ethics expressly prohibits us from opining on a person's guilt or innocence. She acknowledged this, but I pressed further. How many defense cases have you worked? The reaction from her was similar to my job applicant. "None!" she said. "I don't see how I could ever defend someone who had committed a fraud!"

Encounters such as these aren't uncommon. Admittedly, they're delicate conversations — often ones that those of us in private practice discuss in private.

ACFE training is unlike any other. If you want to be a fraud examiner, there's no better place to get your education, training and credential (and I don't say this just because I'm an ACFE faculty member and member of the Board of Regents). However, the training applies to both sides. In my own private practice, there's plenty of room and good reason to work defense cases. In fact, the work is similar no matter what side you're working on.

If you're considering how or whether to take on defense cases, read on.

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