From the President

Peña and Murphy challenge us to rise up in our battles

As I listened to the stories of former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, Javier Peña and Steve Murphy — the inspirations behind the Netflix series “Narcos” — during the 31st Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference in June, I sensed their passion for catching Pablo Escobar and other drug traffickers. Despite enduring constant danger and peril, they seized the mission to disrupt the narcotics trade in Colombia.

But the Escobar search wasn’t their first case. As Murphy says in the cover story, “You start off at the bottom, you’re learning from everybody.” They climbed the DEA ladder and eventually became integral components. “I was a law enforcement professional for almost 38 years, and even in my latter years, I was still learning new things almost every day,” Murphy says to me in a recent email communication. 

If you’re breaking into the fraud examination field, you’re probably discovering that as apprentices you’re progressively cutting your teeth with limited roles in modest matters. Rarely do CFEs start off with Enron-sized fraud cases or by catching drug lords. But just like Peña and Murphy, organizational leaders will see your hard work and persistence and raise you up to higher responsibilities. As you gain experience, you’ll be emboldened to request more complex assignments. Your success will lead executives and clients to ask for you by name

During my climb up the rungs of the profession, several gracious mentors grasped my hand and helped me up the ladder. Many who’ve invested years as CFEs also believe that we need to help new fraud examiners — just as Peña helped Murphy when he first arrived in Colombia — succeed in learning and reaching their goals.

“Just because you become a senior investigator or supervisor doesn’t mean you have all the answers,” Murphy says. “And by being open to learning, you set the example for newer and less experienced investigators. Be the one who sets the standard for others — that’s called leadership.

I challenge you to mentor those just beginning their careers. Assistance from an active practitioner is invaluable and will help them tremendously as they forge a similar path as yours.

Grizzled veterans and rising newcomers will always find plenty of fraud to uncover. Wherever you are in your career, stand tall and heed the sage words of Murphy from his and Peña’s dogged pursuit of Pablo Escobar: “Don’t ever give up.”

Bruce Dorris, J.D., CFE, CPA, is president and CEO of the ACFE. Contact him at