Career Center: Take Me to the Next Level
Jeffrey Meyer, CFE
Vice President, Internal Audit
New York, N.Y.
Mining data doesn’t just mean going through boxes of paperwork anymore. Much of an investigation’s evidence is collected online via data that could be hidden away on a hard drive or in plain sight on Excel spreadsheets. Jeffrey Meyer, CFE and VP of Internal Audit at CBS, knows the value of making technology work for him. “One of the challenges I see is embracing technology so that we are working through and with it, rather than around it,” Meyer said. “I spend a lot of time with data mining software so that I’m working with the full population, looking for anomalies that might lead me to answers, as well as more questions to be answered.”
What made you decide to become a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)?
In 2009, I attended the ACFE Global Fraud Conference in Las Vegas at the last minute after the only CFE was transferred out of our department. While I was initially skeptical of a fraud conference in Las Vegas, I was impressed by the seminars I attended and the people with whom I networked, so I decided to get my CFE credential and fill the gap in our department.
How has earning the CFE credential benefited you in your career?
While fraud investigations are only a part of my responsibilities, my certification adds authority and sway when I am involved with potential fraud cases. I’m also happy to have more variety in my career, so that I can be more than just a stereotypical auditor.
What ACFE training has benefited you most in your role?
While the benefits have been many, I have specifically benefited from interviewing skills training, which has broader implications beyond just fraud investigations. When I’m wearing my “auditor hat,” I spend a lot of time talking to others and gathering information. If I’m better at interviewing, I can spend less time and get better results.
You’ve been to a few of the ACFE’s Annual Global Fraud Conferences. What keeps you coming back? What do you find most useful among the benefits of attending the Conference?
I’ve attended every ACFE Global Fraud Conference since 2009 so that I can network with other attendees, hone my skills and knock out my continuing education requirements efficiently.
What were some of the more challenging tasks you’ve personally faced as a CFE?
I’ve had several investigations where local finance and management has tried to do some investigating, including interviewing the suspected fraudster. These cases are challenging in that the “first bite of the apple” has already been taken and therefore removed any element of surprise we might have had. We’re working with our divisions to get us involved at the first signs of suspicion, and that’s reaping benefits for us.
What are some of the benefits/advantages to a company or government agency employing CFEs on its staff?
CFEs bring a different skill set and mindset to an internal investigation that can be critical to a successful outcome. You wouldn’t go to a tax accountant for your annual audit or to a dermatologist if you needed anesthesia for a surgery. These fields, while tangentially related, are not the experts in your true need, so why wouldn’t a company or agency choose the expert in the investigation field?
Please describe your most memorable case and its resolution (to-date if it’s a fresh case). Feel free to use pseudonyms for suspects if the case is ongoing and no judgment has yet been made.
My most memorable case wasn’t glamorous or high profile, but to me it was memorable because the business process worked as it should in identifying a potential fraud. While we prepared for a normal audit of one of our local markets, we got a call from the market’s credit manager, whom I’ll name “Bonnie.” As part of her normal controls, Bonnie was reviewing the accounts receivable aging and making telephone calls to follow up on delinquent accounts. With one small, local business account, the owner told Bonnie that he had paid the invoice, and he even had his cancelled check. Bonnie apologized for the mistake and asked if the owner wouldn’t mind faxing a copy of both sides of the cancelled check so she could correct the error. When she looked at the check, she called for our assistance. The sales person on this account, Henry, had added his name to the payee line of the check, had endorsed it and deposited in his bank account. Working with our Security Department, I began investigating Henry’s accounts to see if any evidence existed for similar activity, but none did. Henry had started with this market less than two years ago, his first position out of college, so his activity was finite and readily available. When we confronted Henry with our evidence, he broke down and admitted he had taken the check. Through tears as he wrote out his confession, he realized that he might have jeopardized the rest of his career for about $800 of short-term cash, which he had already begun to repay before we questioned him.
How important is networking to you as an anti-fraud professional?
Networking is very important as there is only so much that you can get from reading something. Sometimes you need to hear the story first hand. Also, it’s great to have a network of people off which you can bounce ideas.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to follow a similar career path as you?
Besides getting a degree in accountancy and experience in both external and internal audit, I would advise people not to be afraid to work and to be open to new experiences. Unfortunately, I see many new professionals who don’t want to get the necessary experience they need to succeed; they often think a degree is sufficient for a corner office. An easy way to distinguish yourself is by showing your willingness to roll up your sleeves and work hard. And remember the Mark Twain quote: “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambition. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too can become great.”
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