From the Chairman

Jim Ratley: The real deal

I’m taking over this column just this once to tell you that ACFE President James D. Ratley’s autobiography, “Policing Fraud” is finally out. It’s a terrific read as you’ll see for yourself. But even in his own words, the book can’t quite capture Jim’s essence. If there’s anyone who knows, it would be me — we’ve been together over 31 years.

When meeting Jim for the first time, you’ll notice that unmistakable East Texas drawl. Picture is “pitcher.” “Every” is “ever.” Traveling millions of miles around the world spreading the gospel of the ACFE has done little to dim the accent. But don’t think for a moment that you’re talking to a country bumpkin. Behind that voice is one of the sharpest minds I’ve ever met.

Alas, there are a lot of sharp minds that don’t accomplish much. “Unrequited genius” is what they call it. That certainly isn’t Jim. Although the idea of the ACFE was mine, it could’ve died on the vine without him. In 1988, when this association was conceived, Jim put his shoulder to the wheel and helped make the concept work.

There isn’t a lazy bone in his body. When we were building the organization, it was standard operating practice for him to travel extensively on ACFE business by leaving home on Sunday and getting back Friday night or Saturday morning — week after week, month after month, year after year. Not once did he complain.

The man also has a big heart. I’ve seen it countless times. Once, at an event in Austin, an attendee’s mother broke her leg while out for a walk. Recovering in the hospital in a distant city, the mother wasn’t alone — Jim visited her every single day. He also encouraged our staff to cheer her up. Moreover, Jim has quietly come to the aid of many people who were in need. He doesn’t talk about it because he isn’t interested in the glory. But those people are eternally grateful.

Then there’s his sense of humor. If you’ve met him, you know how funny he is. But he’s just not making jokes. If you pay attention (and you will), his stories are almost always learning parables with a humorous twist. Once he was talking about a critic in the early days of the ACFE who said we’d never make it because “we were just a bunch of cowboys from Texas.” Jim said in a speech at one recent annual conference, “I’ve got three words for you, Mr. Critic: yippie-ki-yay!” It brought the house down.

In the world of fraud, there are a lot of phonies. But Jim Ratley is the real deal.

Dr. Joseph T. Wells, CFE, CPA, is the founder and Chairman of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. He can be reached at: