Forensic Accounting

Exponential Growth
The work varies widely, the credentials to practice are sophisticated, unique marketing is needed, but the engagements are very lucrative.

By Jeff Stimpson
(Feb. 1, 2007) – "Fraud is a growth industry, unfortunately. There's never been a shortage of bad people doing bad things," says Andrew Bernstein, former director of forensic practices at Big Four firms and director of forensic and valuation services with Miami-based Berkowitz Dick Pollack & Brant. "Regulatory agencies have been more active than ever in the last five years identifying and rooting out not only the fraudsters, but identifying the potential for fraud to exist." Advertisement


Though "forensic" is a broad term, according to Michael DiGiacomo, director of consulting at Grassi & Co., Lake Success, N.Y., different engagements that would require a forensic accountant include investigating fraud, investigating the books and records relating to a shareholder or partnership dispute, or preparing damage analysis and testifying before an arbitrator, mediator, or court. "Our engagements are much more focused on specific allegations or events, compared with an auditor offering an opinion on a company's financial statements," he adds.

"Our role is to verify, corroborate, or disprove financial allegations. The forensic accountant must understand the transaction trail, and know how to identify sources of financial and other information to evaluate conflicting information sources," says Paul McPherson Brunner, CEO of Denver-based RGL – Forensic Accountants & Consultants.

"Forensic accountants untangle events and details that are tangled by design," says partner Barry Mukamal of the forensic accounting practice at Miami-based Rachlin Cohen & Holtz. Adds Bernstein, "You're trying to piece together a puzzle where you don't have the picture on the box to know what it's going to look like. The facts are not settled, and actually it's the facts that are in dispute."

"I liken it to 'CSI' or 'Law and Order,'" says Terry McCarthy, audit partner with Green & Seifter, in Syracuse, N.Y., "but instead of figuring out the trajectory of a bullet, you're trying to find out how a transaction occurred."