The Fraud Examiner

Not All That Glitters: When to Question Success
 

Mary Breslin, CFE, CIA

President, Verracy

Years ago, I called my sister who was a journalist specializing in health and nutrition for a woman’s magazine, which she now runs, to ask her advice about the latest popularized diet. Apparently on this diet I would lose 32 pounds. in a month by doing little more than thinking about weight loss. Pretty sure there was some promise of increased wealth as well. I desperately wanted that miracle of diet to be true. My sister just laughed.

I’m not alone, many of us want to believe things that we rationally know do not makes sense. It also happens in business.

When I teach anti-fraud courses, I frequently use the biggest cases in history as examples. Not only are many of them household names that everyone knows, they also share many commonalities like greed, arrogance, sense of entitlement, culture and Wall Street pressure. But there is one thing that stands out to me — the majority are American companies.

This generally starts a discussion about why American companies seem to be more susceptible to these large-scale frauds and scandals. Some of the answers I get are that U.S. companies are bigger or that there are more of them. Sometimes I get answers pointing toward other countries suppressing this type of information. There is probably some truth to all of these, but in my opinion, one big contributor is that we put a higher value on success in the U.S. at the cost of context.


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