The Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association Board was honored to invite the most experienced Forensic Auditor from the NYS Office of the Inspector General, W. Valentine Douglas, back to Baruch for an amazingly informative event. This year, Mr. Douglas focused on combating corruption as one of the goals of a fraud investigation.
Why Fight Corruption?
As one of the main obstacles to sustainable economic, political and social development, amongst all types of economies, corruption reduces efficiency and increases inequality. We learned that according to estimates from the World Economic Forum and the World Bank, the cost of corruption equals more than 5% of global GDP ($2.6 Trillion), with over $1 trillion paid in bribes each year. It’s not only a question of ethics; we also cannot afford a waste of funds that could be better used on economical, educational, or infrastractural development. Moreover, corruption wastes, or makes inefficient use of, public resources, excludes poor people from public services and perpetuates poverty, corrodes public trust, and undermines the rule of law and ultimately delegitimizes the state. Mr. Douglas believes that ethical arousal within the young accountant community will eventually help to create a more ethical financial environment in the future.
Additionally, Mr. Douglas reminded us of the process of fraud investigation using one of the not-for-profit corruption cases that he had closed before. To investigate this kind of case, investigators would often look at critical people’s background, such as who their relatives are and what other financial interests they would have, as a process in identifying other key players. The investigative process is not a straight line standard operating procedure. As a result, investigators have to think outside the box and sometimes go back to the beginning as needed if new leads occur in the middle of the process. Eventually, conclusive evidence that will bring down the “bad guys” will be delivered to prosecutors who will then present that evidence in court. Form 990 and bank statements are always useful as databases worth examining.
Written by: Ginny Gao
Edited by: Russell Bruskin
The Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association board would like to thank Michael Schulstad for joining us for another successful semiannual event on October 10th, 2018. As in past events, Michael gave an informative presentation on what it takes to be a forensic accountant, what his career in the FBI required, and what his most recent cases entailed.
Michael’s presentation differed in some respects from his previous presentations. Michael delved more into the responsibilities of forensic accountants, including what industries and service lines suffer from fraud cases most frequently, as opposed to events that occurred during his time with the FBI. He also shared three of his most recent cases with the students. One of the cases he described involved an individual who rerouted company checks for clients back into her bank account. She also had a prior history of employer theft that wasn’t detected during the hiring period. Michael covered a major theme throughout his presentation: many of the cases that he worked on while consulting involved the perpetrator successfully committing fraud because their manager or supervisor had trusted them and instituted insufficient internal controls. Michael’s presentation piqued the interest of the students who attended because many great and insightful questions were asked during Michael’s Q&A session.
The board would also like to thank everyone who came out and attended our event with Michael. We hope that you gained valuable insight into the world of forensic accounting.
Written by: Russell Bruskin
Edited by: John Chen
On September 6th, 2018, ZFAA hosted another successful information session with the re-branded EY Forensic & Integrity Service (F&IS), which was known as Forensic Investigation and Dispute Service. We were delighted to see undergraduate and graduate students networking among themselves long before the arrival of the EY professionals. Most of the professionals who represented the team are Baruch Alumnus.
The team began the event with brief introductions of themselves and their backgrounds. As of June 2018, EY F&IS has 156 locations in 77 countries with over 200 partners and over 4,500 professionals. EY's F&IS is an assurance service that is still expanding. The recent name change from Fraud Investigation and Dispute Services (FIDS) is to show that it covers a wide variety of investigations:
Financial reporting, securities fraud, and accounting irregularities,
Embezzlement and asset misappropriation,
Anti-bribery and corruption Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and UK Bribery Act,
Litigation support and expert witness testimony,
E-discovery, data forensics, and data analytics, etc.
EY F&IS falls under the assurance umbrella, and it contains six different departments: Investigation & Compliance (I&C), Forensic Diligence (FD), Claims & Disputes (C&D), Forensic Data Analytics (FDA), Discovery, and Privacy & Cyber Response (PCR).
In addition, the team also shared their suggestions and advises to help students network effectively. They also provided insight on the type of candidates they are looking for. Upon completion of their presentation, EY's representatives took the time to answer questions and openly network with students.
ZFAA really appreciate the professionals from EY F&IS's team for taking the time to explain their daily work and providing insight on this exciting services line.
By Ginny Gao, edited by John Chen
On Friday May 4th, Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association hosted its 5th semi-annual Alumni Night with fellow co-sponsors: ZTAX, GBAP, ZWIB, ZGAS, and ZUTS. The night began with great food, refreshments, and dessert. Following the meal was an interesting ice-breaker with 5 winners, each taking home a Starbucks gift card. Attendees continued with open networking, filling the room with light laughter. Participants continued to network long after the event formally ended. Needless to say, it was another successful semi-annual Alumni Night.
By John Chen
W. Valentine Douglas, who currently works as a Senior Forensic Accountant at the New York State Office of Inspector General, spoke with ZFAA on April 19, 2018. He was very articulate, well-informed, and inspiring.
He shared with us the definition of Forensic Accounting, stating that Forensic Accounting involves utilizing accounting skills to investigate financial crimes and preparing the findings for use in legal proceedings. He taught us the history of the field and explained the origin of the phrase “Forensic Accounting.” He emphasized the name of first Forensic Accountant in the US: T-men. Additionally, he spoke about some notable cases with subjects such as Al Capone, Charlie Chaplin, Ringling Brothers, William Fox, and Rubel Coal And Ice Corporation. We found these cases very interesting and insightful.
Furthermore, Valentine tied his knowledge of Forensic Accounting back to his experiences in White Collar Crime, frauds involved public corruption, healthcare, contract, public assistance and housing, labor, social services, education, and inspection services. Since the room was full of aspiring Forensic Accountants, he also shared with us the skill sets we would need to thrive in the field, which include but are not limited to: investigative, accounting, analytic/logical, physiological, communication, organizational, and legal. To wrap up the conversation, we discussed the future of Forensic Accounting. “Crimes are human behaviors that can only be solved by humans,” he quoted. Valentine believes that artificial intelligence (AI) cannot replace humans when it comes to solving problems in this area, but rather, AI can help indicate and point out the problems that need to be resolved.
In the end, we had the opportunity to ask questions. From his answers, in conjunction with his knowledge and experience, he shared during the main part of the event, there is no doubt that the students walked away with valuable insights that would help with their future work in Forensic Accounting.
by Grace Zhang, edited by Crystal Lam, Ginny Gao
Our ZFAA team was pleased to welcome our frequent guest, Michael Schulstad, for a meeting with our students. Our gatherings and discussions have brought so much interest in forensic accounting among students that we are always happy to organize an event for them every spring and fall semester.
This time, our event was slightly different than those in the past. As normal, Michael began with a presentation about his experience in forensic investigations and various projects carried out with the FBI as a Special Agent, and subsequently, as a Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The presentation was followed by an investigation game, a new addition to our usual flow, which students found interesting and informative. We believe it helped you have a better understanding of an investigation specialist's perspective and immerse yourself into the agent’s life to have a little taste of what it may be like.
Michael spoke about how different each day can be as an FBI agent and how you should react to certain cases. He is definitely the go-to person to learn about the life of an agent. This was a great opportunity to discuss the career path and where it can lead to. It is adventurous, it is interesting, it is dangerous, and it is absolutely exciting!
The Q&A session was full of questions and further discussions, as always, and it added more flavor to our meeting. Michael continuously mentions how enthusiastic our students are in terms of asking questions and of their hunger for knowledge about the field.
We can certainly say that our mission was accomplished; we are happy to convey the knowledge and pass along the experience of our professionals in forensic accounting to you!
To find out more about the events with Michael Schulstad, please scroll down to see posts about our previous events with him.
by Aziza Khasan, edited by Crystal Lam
On Friday, December 1st, the Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association, along with other graduate associations hosted another Alumni Night. The night was full of good music, great food, and a priceless chance to mingle with Baruch alum.
As people started to gather, they had the chance to help themselves to the delicious food and beautiful desserts while catching up with friends, old and new; meeting former Baruch students who are now working for various companies.
The event kicked off with a brief introduction and a game to get the crowd engaged and socializing.
Items written on paper were posted onto people’s backs and everyone had to go around and try to guess what was written on their back while talking to others.
The decorations and music created a fun atmosphere, but it was the conversations and the relaxed social aspect that made the night so special. There were Baruch graduates from many companies including EY, PwC and PayPal to name a few; it was a wonderful way to meet people who were in our positions and talk to them about their experiences. The whole event was a laid-back way to network with professionals, and not just any professionals, ones that attended Baruch and have gone on to be successful.
The Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association would like to thank all those who participated in the event, from planning and organizing it, to helping set up, and to those who chose to attend. As well as a huge thank you to the alumni who graciously accepted the invitation to come and spend the night with us.
By Stephanie Roberts
On Thursday, November 16, 2017, we welcomed back Cono Fusco as a guest speaker who gave us some insight on successful networking. In additional to the great networking advice, he shared crucial tips on career planning, communicating and taking control of your life and future.
Cono began by talking about his impressive background in accounting; sharing how he started in Grant Thornton when he graduated college and quickly became a partner, excelling in everything he did and moving him down different paths. From the start of his presentation, Cono emphasized the importance of taking risks for future opportunities, a recurring theme throughout his speech.
As far as networking, we learned how to describe ourselves through our aspiration, how to stand out by being interesting, and that we should go into a networking situation with a primary and secondary objective, and always leave with something. The key to success in Cono’s perspective, is in your own hands, you should be knowledgeable and prepared going into any situations and have a plan and to practice before hand; using what you have access to, to your advantage.
Communication was something Cono stressed, he said it is important to “be a quick listener and a slow talker,” that we need to hear people when they talk, listen, understand and respond appropriately. It gives you time to think about your answers and follow up questions while making you look engaged and interested.
Probably the most important and helpful part of Cono’s presentation were his lessons that not only applied to networking, but life and career advancement in general. He started by telling us about his recent trip to Croatia and how he started planning that trip 7 years ago. Cono explained the best way to get things accomplished is to write down our goals, dreams and aspirations on paper, and to cross them off as we achieve them. Plan on what you want to be doing 5 or 10 years from now and then ask yourself what you need to do today and tomorrow to get there.
Overall, it was an insightful and interesting presentation informing us of successful tips for our futures.
By Stephanie Roberts, edited by John Chen
Dennis S. Neier, a Director of Litigation at Anchin and a Commercial Litigation Panelist of the American Arbitration Association, educated the audience on the various roles an accountant plays in a litigation and brought the room to life with flashbacks of his own experiences.
Dennis showed that accountants are not limited to litigations involving financials or tax; they play a role in every stage of a case. The purpose of the accountant might change as a case progresses, but the need for an accountant is constant. Dennis told stories of how at one stage, an accountant may try to discredit the opposing expert witness, and at another, he or she may try to mitigate the penalties of the client. After captivating the audience with all the possibilities of the Litigation practice, Dennis explained the qualifications of becoming an Expert Witness and the secrets of his success.
To be an expert witness, you must be educated, trained, certified, or possess the relevant skill or experience. Dennis differentiated an expert witness and a successful expert witness. To be a successful expert witness, you position yourself as an independent expert witness while in court. The wording of the answer you give is crucial and should not be taken lightly. Another word of advice Dennis gave was to answer the question asked, and to never divulge information beyond the scope of the question. Last but certainly not least, to be a successful expert witness, listening is key, especially when the lawyers are talking, be it directly or indirectly to you.
By John Chen, Edited by Crystal Lam
On Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017, the Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association was delighted to present "Forensic Accounting with Michael Schulstad". Michael Schulstad is a recurring speaker and friend of ZFAA and Baruch College, whose 25 years of experience as an FBI special agent and appointment as Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has continued to compel students every semester to consider career paths in law enforcement and forensic accounting.
Michael spoke of his most memorable criminal cases during the 28 years he was an FBI Special Agent. One of the cases involved massive identity and credit card fraud that transcended state lines and led agents to several casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada. The FBI was able to utilize its unique set of resources and authority to coordinate assistance from law enforcement agencies across the country to crack the case. Another case was a lucrative insurance fraud scheme a husband-wife lawyer team managed with the help of bribed witnesses, doctors, and attorneys. Students were encouraged to present their solutions and methods of investigation, as Michael presented the initial issues and details he was given. Michael also presented scenarios where embezzlement happened because of internal interference and intimidation from management. While reviewing multiple ways to track down the culprit, prevention tactics such as contingent procedures and occasional job rotation were also considered.
It should also be noted the forensic accountant is not limited to one specific role. Their responsibilities vary depending on the jobs they assume, some of which include being an expert witness for litigation and divorce cases, an internal/external fraud investigator, and business appraiser. There are many opportunities and career choices that comes with the decision to become a forensic accountant, and one of them happens to be a special agent within the FBI. The road to becoming an FBI special agent is difficult and competitive, but there is no “cookie cutter” ideal for an FBI special agent, as its investigators come from many different backgrounds, each bringing a distinct perspective and set of skills to the organization. However, Michael also noted that candidates interested in joining the FBI as forensic accountants must have a number of years of experience, with knowledge of a second language being a plus.
Michael concluded the presentation with a Q&A session where one of the last questions was “What would you to consider to be the most exciting part of your career?” Without blinking, Michael answered that working with the FBI was the most rewarding and exciting chapter of his ongoing long run as a forensic accountant. While the path was difficult, he considered the exciting cases and enforcement of justice to be the highlights of the job, in addition to the long-term insurance and pension benefits he has received. The path to becoming an FBI special agent involves many obstacles, but with determination, perseverance, and focus, anyone can become one.
By Serena Law, edited by Dara Chen