Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere. And companies that fine new or better ways to use AI create advantages for themselves, largely because it may give them the ability to scale things a reduced cost, and also because it may attract new clients who want this technology advantage.
In accounting, AI is most typically used to automate bookkeeping functions: recognizing payees and automatically categorizing transactions, matching transactions (ex. matching a purchase order to an invoice), automatically producing certain financial reports, basic financial analysis. (AI isn’t yet good at complex financial analysis, but the ability to interpret data will continue to develop.)
Overall AI decreases the need for manual tasks such as inputting data and routine analysis of financial statements. That frees up accountants to do more specialized tasks. Think of it as automating the administrative tasks so the accountants can do the creative tasks.
I also use AI in my forensic accounting practice, although you might not recognize it as that. When I use software to perform data analytics (which has been around for a long time), I’m using AI. The data analytics are often centered around analyzing large sets of data to identify anomalies or patterns that are concerning. But we can also use AI to help link sets of data (think of matching transfers between accounts or matching bank transactions to underlying accounting system data). Continue reading
Tracy walks through the process of calculating a business interruption insurance claim, also called a business income loss. When a company is unable to operate for a period of time due to a covered loss (a fire, for example), its insurance policy may provide coverage that pays for lost profits while the business is closed. Tracy explains how to calculate net income plus continuing expenses in cases such as this.
I receive many requests for information on the field of forensic accounting, including questions on courses of study, certification, job opportunities, and preparing for a career. Here are a few quick tips:
Establish a background in general business and finance/accounting. You need a good working knowledge of financial statements and the accounting process. The real world is different than textbooks.
Find opportunities to work on things that involve fraud. If you work at an auditing firm, make sure the partners know you’re interested in participating in fraud investigation. If you work at a corporation, get in touch with whoever handles investigations. Get any experience you can.
After you have a strong foundation, look for job opportunities that advance you toward your ideal fraud investigation position. If you’re in accounting, don’t take a dead-end accounting job that gets you no closer to fraud investigations. Look for the job that has the potential to move you into fraud investigations.
The most important thing is to start getting experience. Any experience.
When a divorce involves a business, we often ask for a copy of the general ledger, which is part of the company’s accounting records. The general ledger includes the details of transactions for a specified period of time. What can we find in the general ledger? Tracy Coenen explains in this video:
Spousal support and child support are most heavily influenced by the earnings of the parties. Historical earnings will play a big part in these calculations, so it is important to properly analyze them.
Income can easily be determined in cases in which the party or parties only receive traditional wages. The rate of pay is constant, and it is easy to confirm historical earnings. The forensic accountant must be careful to account for things like raises, overtime earnings, or periods during which a party does not work. However, as a general rule, past earnings can be easily analyzed and future earnings are fairly predictable.Continue reading
The skills of a forensic accountant can be useful in bankruptcy cases. In this video, Tracy talks about a case in which she was retained by a creditor to examine the finances of the debtor. There were allegations that the debtor concealed material facts about its financial position when it originally applied for credit, and that certain disclosures in the bankruptcy filing were fraudulent.
Even with all of the publicity surrounding the issue of financial fraud in the last decade or two, most auditors, investors and other professionals still do not “get it” when it comes to detecting fraud. Traditional financial statement audits were never designed to detect fraud. The audit is simply a process by which auditors check the company’s math and application of accounting rules.
Fraud is rarely detected by financial statement audits because they are not designed to do so. Occasionally, fraud is detected by auditors, but they could increase their chances of finding fraud if they changed their audit procedures.Continue reading
How prevalent is financial statement fraud in public companies? In this video, Tracy Coenen talks about the most recent COSO report on fraudulent financial reporting at U.S. public companies. The most common financial statement fraud that companies engaged in was improper revenue recognition, followed by the overstatement of asset or the improper capitalization of expenses.
What benefits do companies and their executives receive from financial statement fraud?
The stock price goes up because the company is more profitable.
The company’s debt rating goes up.
The company is likely to be able to refinance its debt and therefore can reduce its interest expense. The company may also have fewer debt covenant restrictions associate with its debt.
Executives win because they will probably get higher bonuses that are tied to the profitability of the company, and their stock options will be more valuable.