The ACFE and its members evolve

More than 2,600 anti-fraud professionals gather in Las Vegas to regroup, compare notes and revive themselves for new battles.


SeptOct-attendees6When ACFE President and CEO James D. Ratley, CFE, looked out over the record 2,600-plus attendees at the 24th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference in Las Vegas he saw a much different group than he did during the first conferences and seminars. “I think back to the early days of the ACFE when much of our training was attended by middle-aged males, many of whom were senior employees in their companies,” he said during the opening general session.

“Today’s Certified Fraud Examiner has evolved into one who is younger, more diverse and oftentimes, better qualified to deal with the ‘electronic age,’ ” Ratley said. “It may be hard to believe, but when we started the ACFE, there was no Internet, email or cell phones, and the business community was excited about the newest technology available: the fax machine.”

Well, those days are long gone. While many members have some history on their minds as we begin to celebrate our 25th anniversary, Ratley reminded attendees that “just over 1,000 of today’s members were not even born when we started the ACFE.” That number grows every year as our ranks swell — the ACFE now exceeds 66,000 from more than 150 countries. 


During the conference, Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, challenged attendees to step back from merely concentrating on the law of fraud and help develop a culture of integrity that will deter it. The ACFE honored Bharara with The Cressey Award for a lifetime of achievement in the detection and deterrence of fraud.

Allan Dodds Frank, one of the nation’s top business investigative correspondents, favorably compared CFEs with hard-hitting reporters. The ACFE presented Frank with the Guardian Award, presented annually to a journalist whose determination, perseverance and commitment to the truth has contributed significantly to the fight against fraud.

Chris Mathers, a former undercover agent for several Canadian and U.S. federal agencies, spoke about the “continuum of criminality” — how a small crime can lead to large ones.

Actor Stacy Keach, narrator of CNBC’s “American Greed,” described many of the show’s fascinating frauds and one that affected his family.

Shi-min Fang, the recipient of the ACFE’s 2013 Cliff Robertson Sentinel Award, spoke about his efforts to expose medical malpractice in China.

And finally, convicted fraudster and former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow explained how he rationalized his crimes that helped lead to the company’s collapse.


“I am … proud to report that the ACFE remains the largest anti-fraud organization in the world,” said Ratley. “Our goal has never been to be the biggest, just the best. But because of that philosophy, we’ve continued to grow without compromising our standards, and that has made us the biggest. …

“We are diligent in our efforts to gain increased recognition of the ACFE globally, which creates more opportunities for fraud examiners everywhere,” Ratley said. “In October 2013, the Asia-Pacific Conference will be held in Singapore. Earlier in the year, our European Fraud Conference was held in Prague, and we held training events in Jakarta, Shanghai and Melbourne,” he said. “We are currently planning a new lineup of training events for Europe, Canada and the Asia-Pacific region that will be held during 2014. And we have added staff whose primary duties are to help us keep pace with our ongoing global responsibilities.”

Ratley also highlighted the Corporate Alliance program, launched during last year’s Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference. “Membership in the Corporate Alliance denotes a commitment to the fight against fraud and provides your company with exclusive training opportunities as well as savings on ACFE seminars, self-study courses and on-site training,” he said. “And the feedback that we are receiving is that training staff across many job functions to be able to identify the red flags of fraud is quickly becoming an overall compliance program best practice.” 





Dr. Joseph T. Wells, CFE, CPA, founder and president of the ACFE, recognized the presidents of the ACFE: Ratley, who has been with the ACFE from the beginning; Dr. Steve Albrecht, CFE, CIA, CPA, who “helped bring the idea of the ACFE to fruition in our formative years”; and Toby J.F. Bishop, CFE, CPA, FCA, “who aided us considerably in our growth.”

Dr. Wells gave a special tribute to Dr. Gil Geis, CFE, the second president. “This is the first Annual Conference he has missed since 1992,” Dr. Wells said. “That’s because Dr. Geis passed away last November 10 at the age of 87. At the time of his death, Gil was the world’s pre-eminent white-collar criminologist, a great scholar and my close friend. 

“He helped develop the underlying philosophy of the ACFE, which can be summed up in two sentences,” Dr. Wells said. “First, people in a civilized society must be punished for their crimes even though the deterrence effect is far less than we’d like. Second, the key to reducing crime is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Yes, as ACFE members, you are responsible for investigating possible fraud cases. But more importantly, you have a key role in preventing them.

“Prevention begins with education. That’s why you’re here,” Dr. Wells said “But you have a greater responsibility than just educating yourself. Fraud cannot occur without an uninformed victim, be it an individual, a company or a governmental agency. So you are also responsible for educating them. My duty is to help you with that effort by forecasting what is on the fraud horizon over the next few years.” (See Dr. Wells’ forecasts in sidebar 3 at bottom.) 


Attendees had their pick of diverse anti-fraud topics from the Pre- and Post-Conference and the in-between Main Conference.

Three excellent speakers led Pre-Conference sessions. Jean-François Legault, CFE, vice president, assistant director of high tech investigation, JPMorgan Chase, spoke on “Intellectual Property and Personal Information: Investigating Loss, Leaks and Theft.”  

Vincent Walden, CFE, CPA, partner, Ernst & Young, taught “Taking Data Analytics to the Next Level.”

Don Rabon, CFE, president, Successful Interviewing Techniques, led “Persuasive Interviewing Techniques.”

During the Main Conference, attendees learned practical concepts at more than 70 educational sessions in 12 tracks. Tracks ranged from “Fraud Deterrence & Detection: Stopping Fraud Before It’s a Problem” and “Emerging Trends & Issues: How Fraud & Anti-Fraud Efforts are Evolving” to “Legal & Ethics: Critical Issues, Critical Decisions” and “Case Studies: Preparing for the Future by Learning from the Past.”

Four excellent speakers taught the three Post-Conference sessions. Ryan Hubbs, CFE, CIA, CCSA, PHR, forensic audit manager, Halliburton, and Alton Sizemore Jr., director of investigations, Forensic/Strategic Solutions, PC Fraud & Forensic Accountants, team-taught the “Auditing/Investigating Fraud Seminar.”

J. Aaron Christopher, CFE, CPA, assistant dean, California Baptist University, taught “Tracing and Recovering Fraud Losses.” Gerry Zack, CFE, CPA, CIA, CCEP, president, Zack, P.C., taught “Uncovering Fraud with Financial and Ratio Analysis.”


“The lesson in history in general and in corporate scandals specifically is that you can’t simply legislate a culture of integrity,” said Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, during the Monday working lunch. “You cannot will it into existence by simply wishing for it, nor can you instill it in the workplace with even the best drafted compliance policy or the most thoughtful statutory regime or the best fraud examiners around.” 

Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of 
New York, addresses attendees on Monday. Bharara received 
the ACFE’s prestigious Donald R. Cressey Award for a lifetime 
of achievement in the detection and deterrence of fraud.

Bharara, who received the ACFE’s prestigious Donald R. Cressey Award for a lifetime of achievement in the detection and deterrence of fraud, challenged attendees to step back from merely concentrating on the law of fraud and help develop a culture of integrity that will deter it.

He said that simply “issuing periodic and formalistic admonitions” won’t necessarily encourage even good people in the workplace to come forward the moment they suspect the books are being cooked, the numbers are being faked or the customers are being cheated.
“Getting people to listen and report and sound alarms and seek advice requires more than email reminders,” Bharara said. 

Dubbed “The Street Fighter” by TIME Magazine in 2012, Bharara has gained a reputation for vigorous prosecutions. 

He’s already had many satisfying convictions, but he said it would have been better for employees to come forward before these crimes came to light. In most of the big cases his office has prosecuted “there were many, many, many good people who were honest and law-abiding who suspected something bad was going on and sounded no alarm,” he said. 

“We need to figure out … how to make people feel comfortable coming forward and make sure they’re not going to be punished. … And even be rewarded,” he said. 

“How will you satisfy yourselves that the institution you advise or work for is a place where people are comfortable elevating ethical issues?” Bharara asked. “A place where company protections for blowing the whistle are not just in a company manual but in the company’s marrow.”

Bharara said the long-term solution for every firm is to create a corporate culture that openly permits dissent, duly fosters candor and cultivates and even rewards integrity.   


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