Forensic accountants combine number crunching with detective work. They
investigate crimes that can be discovered by examining financial records.
These include crimes such as check and credit card fraud, money laundering,
extortion, mail and insurance fraud, and telemarketing fraud.
Forensic accountants often testify in court regarding their findings. For
this reason they are sometimes called litigation accountants. They may be
the expert witnesses that determine the outcome of a court case.
"A forensic accountant is also a litigation accountant in that the work
of a forensic accountant... might be put in front of some sort of tribunal
or court of law," says Douglas Kalesnikoff, a forensic accountant.
"As a result, we have to prepare our work in that sort of manner, being
objective and independent and be ready to testify to our findings."
These specialists use their accounting knowledge to investigate wrongdoing
or financial irregularities -- not all of which end up in court. "As it
turns out, many of the cases and matters don't go to trial for various reasons,"
"Maybe there's in a criminal matter a guilty plea, or in a civil matter
there might be a settlement before it reaches trial. But you're always preparing
to go to trial and to be the expert witness in the area that you're investigating."
Accountants work in regular office settings. They may work in their own
offices or travel to a client's place of business to do their work. Self-employed
accountants may work at home.
Most large accounting firms, and some smaller ones, have forensic accounting
divisions. Some firms specialize in forensic accounting. They have a definite
niche because big accounting firms often find themselves in conflict of interest
and need an outsider to resolve a problem.
Forensic accountants need to have a knack with numbers and a thick skin.
There's often a lot of negative feelings when a forensic accountant is called
in to examine a company's books.
"Often you're dealing with conflict situations," says Kalesnikoff. "You're
dealing with individuals who don't like what you're doing, who will attempt
to discredit you, will be hard to deal with, may be guarded, may be suspicious
of you, [and] maybe just dislike what you're doing because you might be uncovering