The Forensic Accounting Newsletter monitors news and developments in the legal and regulatory space regarding accounting and financial reporting matters. Every month, you will receive an update with new articles. We hope you find this information useful in identifying current issues that may impact your organization and help you in the fight against fraud!
The inaugural FVS Eye on Fraud focuses on executive impersonation, in which a criminal creates a fake email that closely resembles the company’s own email and appears to come from a high-ranking executive. The recipient is an unsuspecting mid- or lower-level employee selected for his or her access and authority to transfer large sums of money between subsidiaries or to suppliers on behalf of the company.
An Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigation found evidence of systematic embezzlement, fraudulent practices and collusion between 2010 and 2014 by a sub-recipient of Global Fund grants. The investigators concluded that a total of US$3,816,766 in expenditure by the Nigerian Government’s Department of Health Planning, Research and Statistics (DPRS) was non-compliant and is proposed for recovery. The expenditure was mainly related to training for a web-based health information system.
The Global Fund Secretariat has discontinued its relationship with DPRS and barred any individuals identified by the OIG investigation from implementing Global Fund grants. An external fiscal agent is now in place to validate all travel and training-related expenditure and ensure that all vendors are paid by bank transfer rather than cash.
With more than US$1.4 billion invested since 2003, Nigeria represents the Global Fund’s largest portfolio. Programs to date have contributed to 750,000 people living with HIV/AIDS currently on antiretroviral therapy, 310,000 tuberculosis cases detected and treated and 93.4 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets distributed to prevent the spread of malaria.
The OIG started investigating DPRS, a sub-recipient of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), the Principal Recipient for HIV/AIDS grants, in late 2014 after a spot check from the Global Fund’s Local Fund Agent had identified forged and missing expenditure documents. DPRS spent a total of US$4.03 million from 2010 to 2014, representing about 1.2% of the US$330.8 million grant NACA received from the Global Fund.
Key findings Combatting corruption as a global priority 91% of respondents believe it is important to know the ultimate beneficial ownership of the entities with which they do business 83% of respondents view enforcement against management as an effective deterrent against fraud, bribery and corruption Justifying unethical behaviour and misconduct 51% of respondents in emerging markets consider bribery and corruption to happen widely in their country 1 in 10 of respondents would make a cash payment to win or retain business in an economic downturn rising to 1 in 4 in the Far East 42% of respondents could justify unethical behaviour to ensure they met financial targets Almost half of all finance team members interviewed stated that they would be prepared to engage in at least one form of unethical behaviour to meet financial targets or safeguard a company’s economic survival. Bolstering defenses While 55% of companies have a whistle blower hotline in place – 19% of respondents cited loyalty to their company and 18% cited loyalty to their colleagues as deterrents to reporting incidents of fraud, bribery and corruption Only 50% of respondents globally are using specialist monitoring software to identify fraud risks 1 in 5 respondents are not identifying third parties as part of their anti-corruption due diligence What steps should businesses take to minimize risk? Adequately resource compliance and investigations functions, so that they can proactively engage before regulatory action is taken Establish clear whistleblowing channels and policies that not only raise awareness of reporting mechanisms, but encourage employees to report misconduct Undertake regular fraud risk assessments, including an assessment of potential data-driven indicators
More than a third of organisations have experienced economic crime in the past 24 months, as reported by over 6,000 respondents to PwC’s Global Economic Crime Survey 2016. This year’s results show that the incidence of economic crime has come down, for the first time since the global financial crisis of 2008-9 (albeit marginally by 1%).
At first glance, this could be evidence of a return on the investments in the preventative measures which organisations have been making over the past few years. But as we look at the data more closely, it is possible that this small decrease is actually masking a worrying trend: that economic crime is changing significantly, but that detection and controls programmes are not keeping up with the pace of change. What’s more, the financial cost of each fraud is on the rise.
This year’s report illustrates how economic crime has evolved over the last two years, morphing into different forms depending on industrial sector and region.
Despite this evolving threat, we have seen a decrease in the detection of criminal activity by methods within management’s control, with detection through corporate controls down by 7%. What’s more, one in five organisations (22%) have not carried out a single fraud risk assessment in the last 24 months. When looked at in the context of the findings in PwC’s 19th Annual Global CEO Survey – where two-thirds of chief executives agreed that there are more threats to the growth of their company than ever before (a sharp increase, compared to 59% in 2015) – this points to a potentially worrying trend: that too much is being left to chance. In fact, our findings indicate that one in ten economic crimes are discovered by accident.
Today more than ever before, a passive approach to detecting and preventing economic crime is a recipe for disaster. To underscore this fact, our survey uncovered a widespread lack of confidence in local law enforcement – a phenomenon that is not limited to regions or level of economic development. The message is clear: the burden of preventing, protecting and responding to economic crime rests firmly with organisations themselves. Our survey this year focuses on three key areas – Cybercrime, Ethics and compliance programmes and Anti-Money Laundering – and explores certain common themes, including managing the risks associated with the pervasion of technology; what it means to conduct business responsibly across a widening business landscape; and integrating ethical conduct into decision-making.
In addition to highlighting specific areas of economic crime worth focusing on, we emphasise the things you can do better to tackle them – implementing more sophisticated and effective measures that can not only reduce these risks, but also bring the benefits of a more threat-aware business, confident of its defences in a changing world.
The U.K. Serious Fraud Office opened a criminal investigation after Tata Steel Ltd. identified a lapse in procedures at its Speciality Steels business through an internal audit in 2015, the company said in an exchange filing Saturday. “Certain inappropriate testing and certification procedures at the South Yorkshire-based Speciality Steels business were identified” in the audit, the company said. “Amongst other bodies proactively notified by Tata Steel UK was the Serious Fraud Office, which has opened a criminal investigation.” The company immediately stopped the practices after an internal investigation, and suspended a number of Speciality Steels personnel, according to the statement. The investigation found that the “steel affected and supplied was always well within safety margins,” Tata Steel said. The Serious Fraud Office said on Friday it had started the probe into activity at the company’s Speciality Steels unit in December. The Mumbai-based steel manufacturer is scheduled to begin talks next week with Liberty House Group about selling its Port Talbot plant and its British processing operations, as it seeks to exit its U.K. businesses. Prospective buyers for the U.K. division “can raise some concerns because of the liabilities” arising from the investigations, Goutam Chakraborty, an analyst at Emkay Global Financial Services, said by phone from Mumbai. “If it is a serious thing then it will give the buyers more bargaining power and make things a little more complicated."
A printer error first tipped off Bangladesh’s central bank to one of the biggest cyber heists in recent history, according to a complaint filed to police that provided new details on the attempted theft of nearly $1 billion. Zubair Bin Huda, a joint director of Bangladesh Bank, found the printer tray empty when he looked on the morning of Feb. 5 for confirmations of SWIFT financial transactions that are normally printed automatically overnight. He then tried and failed to print out the messages manually from the SWIFT system, according to his complaint to police, the first step needed to start an official investigation. “We thought it was a common problem just like any other day,” Huda said in the complaint. Because it was a Friday -- a weekend in Muslim-majority Bangladesh -- Huda left the office around 11:15 a.m. and asked his colleagues to help fix the problem. It took them more than 24 hours before they could manually print the receipts, which revealed dozens of questionable transactions that sent the bank racing to stop cash from leaving its account with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to the Philippines, Sri Lanka and beyond. The case has prompted central banks around the globe to examine cyber security measures. It has also led to the resignation of Bangladesh’s central bank governor and put money laundering in the Philippines under scrutiny.
The OIG found fraud and collusion in the procurement of technology equipment and communications materials in a malaria grant in Angola in 2013. The OIG concluded that senior staff at the Ministry of Health deliberately diverted US$4 million of grant funds into companies they owned or were closely affiliated with. The Global Fund has recovered close to US$3 million and enforced new measures for the use of program funds by the Ministry of Health in Angola. Angolan authorities have arrested and indicted the officials and criminal proceedings related to this case are ongoing.
The Global Fund has invested US$189.2 million to date in Angola. Malaria investments alone total US$95.4 million and support efforts to provide Angola’s citizens with universal access to malaria prevention and treatment. There are 67,000 people currently on antiretroviral therapy, 180,000 new smear-positive tuberculosis cases have been detected and treated and 3,090,000 anti-mosquito bed nets have been distributed.
In March 2014, based on the findings of a procurement review by a Local Fund Agent, the Global Fund notified the OIG of alleged wrongdoing by the Angola Ministry of Health, Ministério de Saúde, (MINSA) and its sub-recipient, the National Malaria Control Program, Programa Nacional de Controlo da Malária, (PNCM). A dedicated technical management unit called Unidad Técnica de Gestão (UTG), under MINSA, administers the grants on a day-to-day basis and handles financial management and non-health procurements.
The OIG investigators found that the UTG Finance Coordinator and the PNCM Deputy Coordinator embezzled funds for more than a year using falsifying information to make the transactions appear legitimate.
Additionally, the investigation uncovered improper practices related to the selection of external auditors in 2012 and 2013 for the financial statement audits of the malaria and tuberculosis programs that UTG managed. Tenders were manipulated and bid evaluation reports were falsified, leading to the non-competitive and non-transparent selection of auditors and excessive audit fees. The UTG Finance Coordinator’s own firm was appointed auditor for one malaria program audit.
The UTG Finance Coordinator was also found to have been employed as the senior finance officer of a large real estate developer in Luanda during most of her tenure with UTG, receiving a salary from both employers, and actively managing the business affairs of the developer and her own company.
Vidya Rajarao of Grant Thornton India said companies have been approaching it for formulating a fraud risk policy. “A company recently approached us for formulating a fraud risk policy. We help them in detecting fraud, reporting it and preventing such incidents in the future. So, we are aiding companies in dealing with the complete thing,” she noted. Even before revised regulations came into force, some companies had established in-house investigation capabilities, but the trend has been increasing in recent times. Not just the large companies, but small and medium firms are strengthening their internal systems as part of larger efforts to protect interests of investors. Dinesh Anand, partner and leader forensic services, PwC India, said investigations department at a company is generally headed by a dedicated senior management personnel.
Usually, such units are formed by moving existing internal audit or compliance team members and hiring forensic experts.
“Lately, we are seeing an increasing trend of companies wanting to set up a separate investigation function and in many cases are seeking our assistance,” Anand said.
According to experts, companies are also investing in forensic technology tools to guard against possible frauds.
The prevalence of fraud has led to a rise in anti-fraud or forensic professionals who are skilled in combating white-collar crime and its perpetrators. They assist companies build anti-fraud and compliance frameworks, identify gaps in internal controls, and take adequate steps to mitigate instances of fraud in the future. Forensic professionals may address issues from a preventive or a reactive standpoint. The preventive measures include proactive risk assessments, building ethical frameworks, due diligences, background checks, etc. and the reactive measures include investigations and litigation, and dispute support. Forensic professionals can be across diverse backgrounds, such as risk, compliance, internal audit, legal as well as core investigations. Chartered accountants (CA), certified fraud examiners (CFE), lawyers, post-graduates with business degrees, law enforcement personnel, technology experts, economists and engineers can contribute through their in-depth knowledge and on-ground experience.
GAO is the supreme audit institution for the United States. Federal and state auditors look to GAO to provide standards for internal controls, financial audits, and other types of government audits. GAO is also a member of the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) and takes many leadership roles in INTOSAI initiatives to promote knowledge transfer and improve government auditing worldwide.
The Securities and Exchange Commission today suspended an accountant for conducting a faulty audit of the financial statements of a public company that was committing fraud, and the firm where he was a partner at the time has been prohibited from accepting new public company clients for one year. New York-based accounting firm EFP Rotenberg LLP also agreed to pay a $100,000 penalty to settle the SEC’s charges, and it can only begin accepting new public company clients again next year after an independent consultant certifies that the firm has corrected the causes of its audit failures. The accountant, Nicholas Bottini, agreed to pay a $25,000 penalty in addition to being permanently suspended from appearing and practicing before the SEC as an accountant, which includes not participating in the financial reporting or audits of public companies.
According to the SEC’s order instituting a settled administrative proceeding, the failed audit pertained to Illinois-based ContinuityX Solutions Inc., a publicly-traded company that claimed to sell internet services to businesses and whose executives have since been charged by the SEC for allegedly engineering a scheme to grossly overstate the company’s revenue through fraudulent sales.
The SEC’s order finds that during the audits of ContinuityX, EFP Rotenberg and Bottini failed to perform sufficient procedures to detect the fraudulent sales in the company’s financial statements. EFP Rotenberg and Bottini also failed to obtain sufficient audit evidence over revenue recognition and accounts receivable, identify related party transactions, investigate management representations that contradicted other audit evidence, perform procedures to resolve and properly document inconsistencies, and exercise due professional care.
An internal U.N. Development Program audit published on Tuesday gave the agency an "unsatisfactory" rating for its management of the U.N. Office for South-South Cooperation, saying it failed to properly vet a donor linked to a bribery scandal.
The UNDP carried out the audit of its Office for South-South Cooperation in response to U.S. charges against John Ashe, General Assembly president in 2013-2014, and six other people over an alleged bribery scheme. The main UN internal investigations office last month released a related but separate audit of the United Nations interaction with groups linked to the scandal but that audit did not touch on the UNDP. It also recommended improvements.
The UNDP, an autonomous United Nations agency with its own budget that focuses on development projects, said the agency's Office of Audit and Investigations (OAI) found a number of management shortcomings at the Office for South-South Cooperation (OSSC).
The "unsatisfactory" grade was because auditors found "internal controls, government and risk-management processes were either not established or not functioning well," it said.
The OSSC had received $1.5 million last May from Macau-based Sun Kian Ip Group, headed by billionaire Macau real estate developer Ng Lap Seng.
Ng and six others were charged by the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan for alleged involvement in a scheme to get John Ashe, U.N. General Assembly President in 2013-14 and former ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda, $1.3 million in bribes to build a U.N.-sponsored conference centre in Macau.
Learn more at PwC.com - http://pwc.to/1zRrqrO The headlines are full of companies accused of corruption and bribery, and those charges have a huge impact. No business is immune to corruption – deliberate or unintentional – or its effects. Senior executives may be genuinely unaware of any wrongdoing, but the public often refuses to accept ignorance as an excuse.
PwC's Anti-Bribery and Corruption team can help you safeguard your organsiation, its reputation and finances, ensuring its stability and competitive position.
The Panama Papers represent the future of political scandal in the digital age – from the initial hack down to the cloud technology used to analyze the documents. Journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who famously took down Richard Nixon, could hardly have imagined working with millions of pages of confidential documents.
This generation’s Watergate will be conducted through shared folders and chatrooms. Mossack Fonseca, the hacked law firm, embodies the cyber risk to which many organizations have not yet woken up. Hackers are clearly after more than just credit cards and social security numbers. The breach is at once a glimpse into the brave new world of online leaks and a warning that all organizations should assume any sensitive information to be a potential target.
The Panama Papers is 1,500 times the size of Wikileaks’ 2010 disclosure, and the largest leak journalists have ever worked with and one distinctly belonging to the digital era. The sheer amount of data stolen could only logistically happen through an online hack: 11.5 million files totaling 2.6 terabytes equates to loads of books requiring 2,600 pickup trucks! Modern whistleblowers no longer have to sneak documents out of the office in a manila folder. They can extract an entire database to comb through remotely. The data dump of nearly every document from law firm Mossack Fonseca from the past 40 years represents what one journalist calls the Moore’s Law of Leaks, suggesting that disclosure sizes will grow at an exponential rate analogous to that of computing power.
The complex technology and execution behind the Panama Paper’s investigative operation would make any software architect proud. The journalists handling the data employed the latest information technology tools to download, share, and protect a huge database of sensitive information – a feat many companies would be challenged to accomplish. Initial outreach between whistleblower and journalist took place via encrypted messages. The team stored the photos encrypted in the cloud while journalists collaborated on findings in secure chat forums. Maligned by the government as a tool enabling terrorism, the use of encryption throughout this process validates claims of its application protecting privacy and political dissent.
The anonymous whistle-blower’s actions certainly resonate with anti-corruption principles, having revealed illegal and immoral activity from politicians and other public figures. The episode also raises concerns about privacy and the role of “hacktivism,” cyberattacks that are politically or ideologically motivated. Publicly releasing the entire cache of documents, as some have called for, calls into question the right to privacy of Mossack Fonseca clients, especially those who may not have committed illegal activity or do not hold public office. “Hacktivism” inherently takes decision-making away from the legal system. What happens when “hacktivists” act on behalf of principles or entities we consider deplorable or dangerous? Should the abuse of privacy of the innocent be considered unfortunate but necessary collateral damage? The Panama Papers demonstrate a new power for whistle blowers. Their legacies will depend on their judgment in wielding it.
Executives are increasingly urging their companies to collect and use data to prevent, detect, and investigate misconduct, fraud, and non-compliance issues, according to an EY survey that involved more than 600 respondents at companies in 17 countries
Seventy-four per cent of the executives, many of them heads of internal audit, said they needed to do more to improve their companies’ risk management, including forensic data analysis. Only 55% (compared with 64% in 2014) of executives said they were confident they are spending enough on forensic data analytics to address key business risks such as cyber breaches, internal fraud, increasing regulatory scrutiny, and rising bribery and corruption risks in emerging markets.
The sense of urgency among respondents in EY’s 2016 Global Forensic Data Analytics Survey was particularly high amongst respondents in emerging markets. Respondents in Mexico, India, Brazil, and China were the most adamant in supporting the use of forensic data analysis to better manage fraud risks.
New advanced analytical tools and monitoring are being developed to help companies manage current and emerging fraud risks. Despite their eagerness to use them, few respondents said they are recognising the full value forensic data analytics can deliver.
Only 20% of the respondents said they realised the full benefits of forensic data analytics in moving investigations along faster and increasing business transparency. Nineteen per cent said they realised full benefits in getting the business to take more responsibility in managing anti-fraud programs, and only 9% realised full benefits in reducing the cost of anti-fraud programmes.
An internal audit has found important deficiencies and lapses in the U.N.'s involvement with two foundations and several non-governmental organizations linked to an alleged bribery case involving former General Assembly president John Ashe. The audit by the Office of Internal Oversight Services obtained early Monday by The Associated Press said the U.N.'s failure to check out certain NGOs before dealing with them put the United Nations' "integrity, independence and impartiality" at risk. The office gave the U.N. Secretariat a "partially satisfactory" overall result in complying with U.N. policies and procedures, saying "important — but not critical or pervasive — deficiencies exist." Ashe, a former U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who served in the largely ceremonial post of president of the 193-nation assembly from September 2013 to September 2014, is accused by U.S. federal authorities of turning the position into a "platform for profit" by accepting more than $1 million in bribes. The alleged conspiracy involves six others including a billionaire Chinese real estate mogul, two diplomats and a humanitarian organization officer. Ashe's arrest last October put a spotlight on the money the U.N. and its key players accept from outside entities and how donations and partners are vetted. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ordered the audit days later. The Office of Internal Oversight Services gave several examples of the U.N.'s failure to check out foundations and organizations that exposed the world body to the risk it could be involved with organizations whose interests conflicted with the U.N.'s. It said the United Nations Office for Partnerships accepted a $60,000 contribution from the Global Sustainability Foundation, whose leader Sheri Yan was an adviser to Ashe during his presidency and is accused in the alleged scheme, without performing any due diligence check. There was no evidence of checks before projects were undertaken with the International Organization for South-South Cooperation whose president, Francis Lorenzo, a deputy U.N. ambassador from the Dominican Republic, also has been charged in the alleged bribery scheme. The Sun Kian Ip Group Foundation headed by Macau billionaire Ng Lap Seng, accused of lying about plans for $4.5 million in cash brought into the U.S. over several years aboard private jets, was also audited. Prosecutors say Ng wanted to build a multibillion-dollar U.N.-sponsored conference center in Macau as a sort of satellite operation for the world body. The auditors said the foundation co-sponsored a forum on South-South cooperation in Macau in August 2015 with the U.N. Development Program. All participants, including some U.N. staff, received iPads worth at least $599 plus taxes — and three U.N. staffers kept them until after the audit was announced, which violates the U.N. policy on gifts.
81 million dollars transferred from Bangladesh to New York -- then to a bank in the Philippines... all the way to casinos. Everything in a span of two days. How did all these happen? CNN Philippines tracks the transactions of still unknown hackers, supposedly from China.
Forensic audit is marking its place in India with even banks, regulators, enforcement agencies increasingly using such services at a time when financial fraud is on the rise. David Stulb, who heads the EY (earlier Ernst & Young) global forensic practice (Fraud Investigation & Dispute Services (FIDS)) was in India recently. In an interview to Rajesh Bhayani, he highlighted terror financing and market frauds as being areas with the most potential for financial fraud, and which has enforcement agencies worried. Edited excerpts:
Which are the areas, apart from cyber-crime, in which frauds are rising globally?
Looking at the global market, EY is focusing on two areas where we are seeing increasing levels of fraud. The first is terror financing. There has been an increase in global terrorist attacks recently and these have to be financed somehow. In addition to the traditional methods of financing, terrorists are innovatively using technology more and more, which is a very serious challenge globally. The second is increased market volatility. Last August we saw how volatility in the Chinese stock market led to tremors across global markets. Additionally, the anticipated correction in the energy market, alongside sharp volatilities in currencies and a weak start to the year for equities also demonstrates this. Whether this is due to market forces, financial frauds or related to terror cannot be known, but certainly this sharp market volatility gives us a sense that something is wrong, which cannot be attributed solely to market forces. For India, when the present Government came to power, hopes were raised that stern action would be taken against cases of corruption, bribery and black money. These are serious issues and challenging from a forensic accounting point of view.
In which regions is the potential for market fraud seen as higher?
Recent corporate frauds such as Volkswagen and those involving bribes paid by corporates to government officials have created panic. Circumvention of financial sanctions and terror financing are also areas where market platforms can potentially be used. In India, we know from our discussions with RBI and the CBI that there is a real concern regarding funds raised for religious charities and the end purpose of such funds. These agencies are carefully looking at this problem. For example, my sense is that ISIS is actually an organised crime syndicate, engaged in raising funds through oil theft, profit kidnapping and prostitution and using financial channels to move this money around. They may also use religious charities to do this, which is a big headache for all governments. Asian governments are particularly concerned about this. Sharp movements and crashes in markets are pressure points where the potential threat of inflows or outflows of terrorist financing cannot be ruled out. In the context of India, the month of March as a popular financial year-end is a time where companies may be tempted to window dress balance sheets, show higher profits, hide non-performing assets, and keep derivative losses opaque, for example.
Virtually no business is completely free of the risks associated with some sort of corrupt payments. Here are 5 steps towards building a process for managing anti-bribery and anti-corruption compliance.
For many corporations, the risks related to bribery and other forms of corrupt payments rank among the most serious risks that must be managed. The direct impact of financial penalties is not the only problem for businesses, as the damage to brand and reputation from negative publicity can have an even greater and more long-term impact. This e-book outlines the key aspects of an effective process framework for managing the risks of bribery and corrupt payments.
Some organizations, such as multinationals and those in specific industries, including defense, major construction and resources, are particularly at risk, but it typically extends to any organization competing for contracts across the globe. Virtually no business is completely free of the risks associated with some form of corrupt payments.
Many people in the world of audit, compliance, legal, and risk management will be well aware of high profile instances in which organizations had to pay many hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and penalties to U.S. and other national authorities for failing to comply with anti-bribery and corruption regulations.
As with many different forms of risks faced by corporations and other large organizations, there are ways to manage the risks associated with bribery and corruption so that the extent of risk is reduced to a level that is acceptable to the organization. Effective enterprise risk management (ERM) involves a process that, in principle, can be applied to any type of risk. Some organizations develop a comprehensive framework for ERM, where strategic risks are assessed and holistic programs put in place to monitor and mitigate risks organization-wide, while others have far more rudimentary approaches. Most research indicates that those businesses with capable risk management processes outperform those with ad hoc, disparate or informal systems.
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