I was watching an episode of Bones the other day, whose title character is Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan, a forensic anthropologist. On this show, Dr. Brennan is pretty much always pushing the power of evidence and science. When members of her team try to jump to conclusions, she berates them and insists that they must follow the evidence. Even when she is asked by those wishing to quickly find someone to blame for a crime, she brushes them aside and tells them that they must wait until she has gathered adequate information to form an opinion.
The episode I was watching was different from the usual. In this episode, Dr. Brennan decides to follow her gut and find the evidence to prove her case. This got me thinking about the the work that a forensic accountant does, as these things tend to do. When a forensic accountant is called in to work on a case, it is very important to balance evidence and intuition (the gut).
It is very important to be attuned to what is going on around us and to take note of red flags that indicate that there may be fraud or some other misdeed. Common examples of red flags in a financial arena are an employee living beyond their apparent means (the administrative assistant who just bought a Porsche) or the unapproachable coworker who never takes a vacation (no one checks his work). When reading about cases of fraud that have gone on for several years, I often wonder why people did not heed the signs. “Didn’t anyone wonder where she got the money for her expensive clothes and bags,” I have exclaimed at the radio and whomever is around. “So, this guy was the only person who knew how to process the payments and no one ever checked his work?” I say this but I also understand that, when in a situation, it is often easy to ignore or explain away the red flags. As a forensic accountant, it is vital to the job to be aware and sensitive to these signs.
That said, it is equally important (if not more so) to gather and analyze data. The gut feelings should help give the forensic accountant direction in the investigation. However, the forensic accountant cannot reach conclusions based on gut feelings. The conclusions reached by a forensic accountant must be suitable for a court of law (which is what forensic means) and, thus far, gut feelings are not considered suitable.
On Bones, Dr. Brennan did gather the evidence required to nab her suspect. Her gut was right and served to keep her dogged in her search for facts and the truth. And that is what being a forensic professional is about, after all.