Career Center: Take Me to the Next Level
Kenneth Springer, CFE
Throughout an investigative career, you will experience familiar and unfamiliar situations, involving both criminals and victims. Author Kenneth Springer, CFE, is the founder and president of Corporate Resolutions Inc., a specialized firm that gathers intelligence and offers a variety of investigative services that helps its clients make informed business decisions. When conducting an investigation, “use your investigative skills to follow the evidence,” said Springer. “Interviewing is not a simple yes or no conversation; there are skills required to make sure the person feels comfortable in order to elicit the most honest and complete information.”
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
While in college, I spoke with a family friend who was in the FBI. I became very interested and pursued it.
What steps led you from the FBI to starting your own company?
Although I enjoyed the FBI and the people I worked with, I had an opportunity to leave and get involved in managing a small investigations firm that conducted background checks and investigations for private firms. Four years later, I was running the company and decided I wanted to start my own business. I put together a business plan, got a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan and started Corporate Resolutions Inc. in August 1991.
What does your role as president entail?
I focus primarily on business development, strategy, speaking engagements and enjoy learning about new technologies in our business. Although, after 25 years, I still love being involved in some of our complex investigations and working with clients to resolve problematic situations.
What are the most challenging aspects of being involved with investigative due diligence/gathering intelligence?
It is an ever-changing world. We have to keep up with technology. Continuing education is the key to keeping up with industry regulations such as Sarbanes Oxley, Patriot Act, Dodd-Frank, Know Your Customer (KYC) and more. This has created new investigative specialties such as Anti-Money Laundering (AML), the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Based on the changing financial environment, it has presented us with opportunities to develop new investigative products to assist clients.
What are the most important skills (that relate to your position) you have learned throughout your career?
The importance of interview skills — to find out what really happened, because many people think that everything they need is available online. Sometimes it involves speaking to former employees, opposing parties to actions or others. It is imperative you do some fact gathering before conducting crucial interviews to assess one’s honesty and for them to be aware that you might know more than they think.
How do you stay up-to-date on the latest fraud schemes that people try to perpetrate towards CRI’s clients?
Industry blogs, the ACFE and other publications, as well as conferences. In addition, we track our own fraud alerts through traditional media and internet news alerts.
How has your CFE credential helped you in this role?
The CFE credential is powerful. It represents a true understanding of fraud: its implications and the prevention of it. When people see my CFE credential they know my skills have been tested and proven.
Why did you decide to become a CFE?
I could see back in the early 90s that this credential was going to set the standard for investigators of the future and I wanted it. I recall one time in the late 90s, our firm was being considered for a large fraud investigation and they said that although I appeared very capable, they were leaning towards a forensic accountant who was a CFE. I was shocked to hear that and quickly responded that I too, was a CFE. They said, “You are?!” We got the job and solved the case. Ever since then, I have had the CFE credential on my business card.
What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned since becoming a CFE?
When investigating a fraud, you cannot necessarily rely on all of the facts as initially presented by the client since they may have their own agenda. You need to be open-minded and not have a preconceived notion as to how the fraud may have happened and by whom. Use your investigative skills to follow the evidence.
I know this because a long time ago a client led me to believe that a certain employee had committed the fraud we were investigating. It turned out that the client was actually responsible. The client was eventually arrested by the FBI.
What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on — one that made you feel especially proud?
In one instance, investors backed a company that sold hardware (desktops) and during a surprise audit, found $5 million dollars missing. After two months of having forensic accountants try to figure out the fraud, we were brought in to conduct interviews and gather facts. We quickly learned that while the auditors were there, the CFO abruptly resigned and left town (in our business we call that a clue).
We immediately began fact gathering on the previous CFO and learned he had formed a similar-sounding entity within the company, yet the CEO was unaware of it or why it was formed. He also changed company procedure so that he was the one who opened all of the company mail.
To perpetrate his scheme, he would buy 100 computers, pay for them and then return 50. When the computer company sent a refund check, he was able to take the check and deposit it into the account he had fraudulently formed — which was located at the same branch where the company did their banking. Thus, it did not raise any red flags within the company. The FBI is still looking for him.
While putting together the fidelity bond claim for the insurance company, we did a background check on the previous CFO. He was not a CPA as he had claimed and the three references he provided did not check out.
What do you hope to personally pass on to the next generation of fraud fighters?
The importance of analysis when gathering information from the internet, traditional data sources and other public records such as regulatory filings and court records. Often it is not what you find, but what it means.
What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
Spending time with family and golfing.
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