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Kogod Students on Trail of Global Financial Fraud

Global Currency

Numbers wonks from AU’s Kogod School of Business have teamed up with a top Washington firm to help forensic accountants investigate financial fraud around the globe.

Last semester, 30 students in Casey Evans’s forensic accounting class prepared dossiers on 21 countries for accountants from Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, who often jump on a plane at a moment’s notice to investigate violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Enacted in 1977 and amended in 1998, the law addresses accounting transparency requirements and the bribery of foreign officials.

According to Evans, executive in residence in Kogod’s Department of Accounting and Taxation, “the binders are as in-depth as can be digested in two hours on a plane.” They include details on anti-bribery and enforcement legislation, economic drivers, and the impact for U.S. firms conducting business in that country.

Data are drawn from LexisNexis and State Department resources. The students — seniors and first-year grad students — also worked closely with AU’s business and economics librarian and staffers from Kogod’s Center for Business Communications, who helped them refine their reports and correspondence. In addition to gathering the research, “we want to give students the tools to communicate well in the business world,” said Evans.

“I didn’t have any slackers,” continued Evans, a certified public accountant and certified fraud examiner, who led a team of investigators and forensic accountants working on the 2009 Bernie Madoff case. The students — many of whom will go on to jobs at the “big four” accounting firms or with the FBI or IRS — “did excellent work and seem ready for the real world.”

First-year grad student Ross Wittenberg, who graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s in accounting from Kogod, said he enjoyed learning about the kinds of information accountants need to launch an investigation abroad.

“In an increasingly global workplace, it is more important than ever to be knowledgeable about differing business practices in countries around the world,” said Wittenberg, who has a job lined up in the forensic and litigation consulting practice at FTI Consulting. “This project opened my eyes to how complex the differences in countries’ corruption procedures can be.”

Kogod is in the midst of building its forensic accounting concentration, and Evans hopes to continue the collaboration with Baker Tilly next semester while forging partnerships with other D.C. firms. “The forensic accounting field is really growing, so we hope word spreads about what we’re doing at Kogod,” said Evans, herself a two-time grad of AU’s business school. “We hope to bring in more firms to help build this niche within our department.”