Ralph Q. Summerford, CFE, CFF, ABV, CIRA, CPA, during the opening general session of the 21st Annual ACFE Fraud Conference and Exhibition, received the association’s highest honor – The Cressey Award, given for a lifetime of achievement in the detection and deterrence of fraud. The award is named after the late Dr. Donald R. Cressey, noted criminologist and one of the pillars of the ACFE.
“I have a dream,” Summerford said during his remarks after receiving the award. “And that dream is about me, but it’s also about you and me – together we can get the auditors and regulators to use the tools we have to detect when a fraud is occurring, and not years after the fact. By doing so, we can keep fraudsters from ruining people’s lives.”
Summerford is the president of Forensic/Strategic Solutions, PC, a firm of fraud and forensic investigators headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., which is recognized as one of the top U.S. forensic firms. He and his team of professionals specialize in forensic and investigative accounting, computer forensics, expert witness services, fraud examination, business valuations, and litigation consulting.
He works closely with both plaintiff and defense attorneys; corporate boards and audit committees; insurance company special investigation units; government inspectors general; and governmental agencies such as the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, Federal Trade Commission, and the Pension Benefit and Guaranty Corporation.
Summerford testifies as an expert witness in federal and state courts on matters involving complicated financial transactions. He’s an ACFE national speaker and has served as the vice chairman of the ACFE Board of Regents, and chairman of both its Professional Standards and Practices Committee and Board of Review.
“Despite our technology, the world of fraud, waste, and abuse continues,” Summerford said.
“And from a job security standpoint, that’s a good thing. But despite all our efforts at fraud detection and prevention, both individually, and through the ACFE, fraud continues to grow. I have tagged the first decade of the 21st century as the ‘Golden Decade of Fraud.’”
Summerford said fraud examiners must continue to teach people to recognize frauds.
“Auditors should be required to use data-mining software to look for fraud footprints,” he said.
ACFE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
During the opening general session, ACFE President James D. Ratley, CFE, said the future of the ACFE is bright.
“We now have members in 140 nations and within the next year, we will surpass 60,000 members,” he said. “But there is much in store for you. More sophisticated and cutting-edge training. More and better research into the causational factors of fraud. More and better benefits that will help you in our sole mission: to detect and deter fraud, in all its forms.”
ACFE founder and Chairman Dr. Joseph T. Wells, CFE, CPA, said now that he no longer is in charge of daily ACFE operations, he has three pet projects: the Anti-Fraud Education Partnership, the Law Enforcement Partnership, and the Institute for Fraud Prevention.
“Seven years ago, there were exactly 19 colleges that offered anti-fraud classes for students,” Wells said. “Now there are nearly 400 and the number grows. That is because the ACFE has a policy of giving away educational resources with no strings attached to any institution of higher learning that will agree to offer fraud examination education. We’ve donated millions of dollars in resources toward this worthy goal and will continue to do so. Today’s students are tomorrow’s fraud examiners.”
Wells said federal, state, local and international law enforcement agencies are critical to the ACFE’s mission and the members.
“Five years ago, we started the Law Enforcement Partnership for two reasons: to involve them as members of the ACFE but as importantly, to recognize the CFE credential for hiring and promotional purposes,” he said. “This gives our members a leg up in a competitive job market. I am proud to announce that currently 24 are participating in the partnership and it will continue to grow, especially with non-U.S. agencies.
“The third project to which I have devoted my energies is the Institute for Fraud Prevention, the IFP,” he said. “It is a nonprofit think tank started by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the ACFE.”
He said the IFP’s purpose is to raise money for research into a variety of causes/ of fraud. IFP partners are financial, academic and intellectual. Financial contributors include the ACFE, the AICPA, the accounting firms of Grant Thornton and Deloitte, and one of the world’s largest banks, BNP Paribas. Intellectual partners are the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the National White-collar Crime Center, and several federal agencies, among them the FBI and the Government Accountability Office. Academic partners include about 50 universities worldwide.
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