I'm a CFE

Mark Lee Greenblatt, CFE

Inspector general at the U.S. Department of the Interior

Mark Lee Greenblatt, CFE, says he’s learned the importance of being fair, independent and objective — as an individual and as a leader within his organization. “In the inspector general community, we have a special responsibility as the independent oversight mechanism within our departments, and I’ve learned that we can be effective only if we operate with integrity,” says Greenblatt, inspector general at the U.S. Department of Interior. “That’s the modus operandi for my team and is the only way for us to effect positive change in the department over the long haul.”

I was born and raised right outside of Washington, D.C., in Montgomery County, Maryland. I spent some time studying, working and traveling abroad, including to Spain, London and Hong Kong.

I received my undergraduate degree from Duke University and my law degree from Columbia University. Duke offered me a slew of micro-leadership opportunities, which taught me invaluable lessons about group dynamics and leading diverse groups of people.

At Columbia, I particularly enjoyed a clinic on mediation and helping angry parties learn how to communicate, understand their adversaries’ perspectives and hopefully reach a fair outcome.

As inspector general of the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), I oversee a nationwide workforce of more than 270 investigators, auditors, evaluators, attorneys and support staff whose mission is to detect and deter waste, fraud, abuse and misconduct in DOI programs. In leading the U.S. Office of Inspector General (OIG), I am the senior official responsible for providing oversight of more than 70,000 department employees, assessing the department’s diverse programs with an annual financial portfolio of more than $20 billion, and conducting complex administrative and criminal investigations. The two large operative divisions in our OIG are the audit and evaluations unit, and the investigative team — the easiest way to describe it is that we’re a mini-FBI and a mini-GAO inside the DOI.

I grew passionate about fighting fraud when I led the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Investigations investigation into corruption in the United Nations Oil for Food Program. Our investigation exposed widespread corruption and misconduct in the U.N.’s $64 billion operation. We traced numerous complex international transactions and uncovered evidence of Iraq’s under-the-table payments to foreign leaders, illegal kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime and misconduct at the U.N. itself. The moral clarity I felt in pursuing that investigation convinced me that public integrity and fighting fraud was the best career path for me.

Bad writing can suck the life out of a great case; on the flip side, compelling writing can make the phone book sound fascinating.

I think my two strongest skillsets are interviewing witnesses and writing probative reports. I first learned interviewing skills conducting depositions as a civil litigator. In a civil deposition, the lawyer’s goal is to get a full download of what’s in the witness’s mind; everything you do is designed to get the complete universe of their perspective, explore the other side’s potential arguments and foreclose them from introducing new facts or defenses later.

I recently launched a multi-disciplinary effort to address fraud, waste and mismanagement within Native American schools. The DOI is responsible for fulfilling the U.S.’s trust responsibility to Native Americans, including funding schools for Native American kids. Our initiative, which will include the OIG’s auditors, inspectors and investigators, is designed to ensure that Native American schools use DOI funding effectively and efficiently for their intended purposes, like providing a safe learning environment. The heart of our Native American schools initiative is to protect one of the most vulnerable populations in our portfolio — Native American children — and ensure that American taxpayer dollars are going to benefit them, not fraudsters.

My advice for CFEs developing their skills: focus on interviewing and writing. Interviewing witnesses is a fundamental element of our work, and spending time honing the craft of asking questions is invaluable. Similarly, I don’t think you can overstate the importance of good writing. The overwhelming majority of our work culminates in some sort of written product, and a poorly written report simply undermines your own efficacy. Bad writing can suck the life out of a great case; on the flip side, compelling writing can make the phone book sound fascinating.

Other than getting the opportunity to lead the tremendous team at the DOI OIG, my greatest professional achievement relates to writing. I’ve had the opportunity to publish several written materials, which has been exciting. Outside of the professional environment, earning my black belt in taekwondo was a lifelong dream.

But all of that pales in comparison to raising my two boys, who are highly inquisitive and energetic. My greatest achievement has to be that they haven’t burned down my house yet.

According to the DOI OIG, any reference to any organization, products or services don’t constitute or imply the endorsement, recommendation or favoring of the U.S. government or the DOI OIG. – ed.

Emily Primeaux, CFE, is associate editor of Fraud Magazine. Contact her at eprimeaux@ACFE.com.