The Fraud Examiner
Knowing When to Walk Away … and When to Run
By Scott Patterson, CFE
You have been toiling for months on a case and you know where the evidence is leading. The satisfaction of solving the puzzle and unraveling the trail of fraud is what a fraud examiner lives for. As you present your findings to your client and discuss the need to dig further into certain clues and red flags, this is your moment.
Yet, the meeting turns … strange. Your client seems to either not hear, or not understand, what you are telling him. Finally, it becomes clear: Your client wants you to stop pulling on the thread you have been unraveling, and put your attention elsewhere. Despite your protests, and the evidence you have gathered, your client wants you to firmly shut that door.
It is a dilemma that would put any fraud examiner in a bind. You know there is more to the story, but the client who writes your check is telling you, in no uncertain terms, the scope of your job – and how to do it. Which stones to turn, and which are off-limits.
While it may be difficult to do, the best decision when your work is being compromised is to disengage from the client. That’s what ACFE faculty member Tiffany Couch, CFE, CPA, CFF, has had to do more than once. In a recent interview with the ACFE, Couch discussed uncomfortable situations in which she had to make the choice to leave business behind, and keep her ethics – and reputation as a CFE – intact.
“I’ve had a few ethical dilemmas in my career,” Couch said. “Most recently, I was working for a city, and I’d been there for a very long time, six to eight months, off and on. And … I was noticing that the client was at risk in certain other areas – areas that they had not communicated to me about.
“But because of my proximity … I could see what was going on,” Couch said. “I went to the city council, and I said: ‘You’ve got a problem here.’”
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