When I was a kid, my parents gave me the book “Harriet the Spy“. I am not sure what effect my parents thought the book would have on me but the effect was deep and long-lasting. From the moment I finished reading the book I was inspired, by Harriet, to spend my investigating and solving mysteries – even mysteries that did not even know existed. After lessons on fossils and other historical remains, I dug up the backyard in search of remains of my own. I had visions of finding long-hidden bones or pieces of a long-ago sunken ship (despite living nowhere near a large body of water). The only bones I succeeded in finding were the bones our dog had buried in the ground.
Fast forward some years and several types of puzzles, I found myself taking up financial forensics. When I meet people and they ask me what I do and I respond, “I am in financial forensics” most of them say, “what is that?” That does not surprise me – I myself went into forensic accounting with a vague and limited sense of what they did and found that the range of issues to be more expansive than I imagined. Financial forensic professionals can be found working a criminal investigation, a fraud case or an economic damages litigation, and that is just scratching the surface of what they can do. If there is a mystery involving money matters (and sometimes even if the money matters are not immediately apparent) there is a good chance that a financial forensics professional will be involved.
But it goes beyond that. The word forensic means ‘suitable for use in a court of law’ and this means that, at a minimum, the work of the forensic accountant should meet those standards. Forensic accountants often serve as expert witnesses or as consultants for cases that may eventually end up in court. Also, most forensic accountants belong to professional bodies, such as the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and hold specialised credentials, the Certification in Financial Forensics being one. These professional bodies demand high levels of expertise, ethics and judgment and, as a result of these various requirements, forensic accountants are expected to be well-qualified to take complex financial issues and present them in an understandable and supported manner.
I wonder if my parents ever thought that a book about a little girl on New York’s Upper East Side would lead to their own little girl growing up to solve mysteries herself?