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ACFE associate general counsel's motto for traveling light also applies to life

The ACFE, with members around the globe, has contracts, compliance requirements, intellectual property issues and other matters that ACFE Associate General Counsel Jacob Parks, J.D., CFE, happily handles. “Fraud and corruption are the nemeses of a fair society, which was especially clear after the financial crisis of the late 2000s,” he says. “The ACFE’s mission of fighting fraud worldwide was appealing to me after I saw how much harm was due in large part to deceptive practices on a wide scale.” Parks says he’s motivated by the feedback he’s gotten about how people have benefited from the ACFE, especially long-time members who know how the profession has evolved. “It’s clear that thousands of anti-fraud professionals are applying what they’ve learned from the ACFE educational materials and events in their work,” he says. “Not to mention the number of career paths that have resulted from the networking opportunities.”

When people ask where I’m from, I usually just say, “I’m from west Texas.” I was born in Lubbock and lived in El Paso and Midland for several years.

The common thread in all my hobbies growing up is air conditioning — it’s hot in Texas. Reading was my favorite hobby (it still is, though now I’ve mostly switched to audiobooks). I also played baritone saxophone in school until they required us to join the marching band, so I joined the debate team instead.

When I was growing up, whatever movie I liked most at that particular time in life dictated the profession I wanted to go into. I saw “Top Gun” and wanted to be a U.S. Navy aviator; I saw “Jurassic Park” and wanted to be a paleontologist; and so on. However, my family knew before I did that I was going to be a lawyer based on my knack for never conceding an argument.

I attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, for both my undergraduate and law degrees. One thing about Lubbock that most visitors found strange at the time is that it was both a college town and a “dry county,” meaning no stores could sell alcohol within city limits. This created a niche for beer/wine stores far outside city limits all packed together, which were very busy at all hours and lit up at night like Las Vegas (which gave the location its name, “the Strip”). While I lived there, I took part in the city-wide vote to end this arrangement.

Before joining the ACFE I clerked at a civil litigation firm. This was my first fraud-related professional experience, as I worked on some deceptive trade practices claims. My first job at the ACFE was in the research department, updating the legal components of our materials and creating new content. It was a great way to get familiar with the common body of knowledge for anti-fraud professionals, and I still periodically do continuing education courses on the law related to fraud.

One thing that I didn’t realize before joining the ACFE is the hardship that many individuals might take on when confronting internal fraud committed by someone with significant influence. For instance, 2018 ACFE Sentinel Award winner Kathe Swanson reported that the controller of a city was committing massive embezzlement. The path of least resistance is often to bury your head in the sand, but she and many other people have the bravery to come forward even when it means their professional and personal lives might be turned upside down.

“One carry-on item only” started off as my motto for traveling light, and it forces me to pare down to the necessities. I think it’s helpful to apply that mentality generally: Do we really need this item? Is this process necessary, or can it be simplified? Is the amount of time and effort we are putting into this paying off? It’s worth it in the long run to occasionally step back and ask these questions.

One of my proudest accomplishments is finishing a more than 100-mile hiking and canoeing trip through the Kenai peninsula in Alaska. My far-fetched goal is to canoe the Mississippi river from its headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico, but that will probably have to wait until retirement because it would take a while.

Traveling is one of my favorite things to do, and I usually go to places with good museums and/or outdoors activities. The first time I went to New York, I had four days of free time and originally planned to visit many touristy places. After visiting the Metropolitan Museum, I ended up spending most of each day there instead of the other things I had planned. It’s one of my favorite places on earth.

Emily Primeaux, CFE, is associate editor of Fraud Magazine. Contact her at