From the President and CEO

Fraud examiners and investigative journalists

By James D. Ratley, CFE

Fraud examiners have many friends in other professions. Our activities and skills, for example, overlap with investigative journalists. We both use interviewing and data analysis tools. Sometimes we can help each other in discovering evidence. And we both try to objectively seek the truth.

We instituted the Guardian Award because fraud examiners and reporters often reach for common goals. We present it every year to a journalist whose determination, perseverance and commitment to the truth has contributed significantly to the fight against fraud. We select nominees based on their contributions in exposing specific acts of fraud and white-collar crime or through helping to shine a spotlight on issues central to fraud and the worldwide effort to prevent and detect it. Sounds like most fraud examiners, doesn't it?

David Barboza, a business correspondent for The New York Times, is the 2016 Guardian Award recipient because he exposed corruption at high levels of the Chinese government, including billions in secret wealth owned by the prime minister's relatives. He received a 2013 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his series of articles on the corruption.

In the cover article, Barboza says he began work on a series about what had been dubbed "state capitalism" with an envisioned final article about "princelings" — the sons and daughters of the political elites.  "And it was during the research on that piece that I began to discover that in China I could get access to corporate records, records of private companies, and records that listed current and former shareholders.

"I initially intended to look at the sons and daughters of Politburo members and write a little about their business deals. But then I found records related to the family of then prime minister, Wen Jiabao," he says. "I could hardly believe that within months of searching through government records and corporate filings of listed companies that there were indications the family might have a huge stake in Ping An, one of China's biggest insurance companies. I soon found that the family's wealth could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Eventually, we documented about $2.7 billion. But that was hardly all of it. I later found even more."

Barboza will deliver a keynote message and receive the Guardian Award at the 27th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference, June 12-17 in Las Vegas.

James D. Ratley, CFE, President and CEO of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, can be reached at: