Fraud examination growing part of forensic accounting

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Published: January 5,2009

Forensic accounting may not be a household term, but it is a growing sector as instances of fraud increase. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, there are approximately 96 certified fraud examiners (CFE) in Mississippi.

“Not all of these certified fraud examiners practice forensic accounting, but each is a highly trained professional in the area of the detection, prevention or investigation of fraud,” said Keith B. Campbell, a Gulfport-based CFE who does practice forensic accounting. “Fraud is a branch of accounting that deals with legal definitions and the ability to present findings in a court of law. I don’t make a distinction between fraud accounting and investigative accounting. Every investigation should be treated as though it will end up in court.”

He says the phrase forensic accounting was coined in 1988 by the national Association of Certified Fraud Examiners when they started issuing certifications. He participates in a Gulf Coast Chapter of the association that includes Mississippi and Alabama.

Mark Morgan of Jackson is the immediate past president of the Central Mississippi Chapter of Certified Fraud Examiners, which currently has 46 paid members along with some affiliate members. He says CFEs are now located in 120 countries around the world.

“Our job is to bring fraud training to the Jackson area through seminars,” he said of the chapter’s mission. “Certified fraud examiners are required to have 20 hours of education each year to keep up their certification.”

He points out that CPAs and CFEs can testify in court. The two specialists usually work in teams with CFEs handling the investigative aspects of a case. One does the numbers and the other testifies as to what happened, the human aspect of the case.

“It’s a profession that is very much in demand,” he said. “We’re seeing more need for controls. Long gone are the days of sealing business deals with handshakes. There’s dishonesty in business dealings, and there will definitely be undue pressure on companies to commit fraud in this economy. There may be pressure on companies to make their books look more favorable. We call it a perceived pressure.”

Morgan has a lengthy professional background that includes working as a financial crimes investigator with the Mississippi State Tax Commission. He now teaches fraud examination at Mississippi College where 20 different types of fraud are included in the instruction.

James Koerber, a Hattiesburg CPA and CFE who practices forensic accounting and business evaluations, agrees that this field is growing. “Accounting Today magazine’s last survey reports that 78 percent of the country’s top CPA firms use forensic accounting in fraud and litigation,” he said.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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