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