A field that combines criminal investigation skills with financial auditing skills to identify financial criminal activity coming from within or outside of an organization. Financial forensics may be used in prevention, detection and recovery activities to investigate terrorism and other criminal activity, provide oversight to private-sector and government organizations, and assess organizations' vulnerability to fraudulent activities.
Financial forensics is similar to forensic accounting, which utilizes accounting, auditing and investigative skills to analyze a company's financial statements for possible fraud in conjunction with anticipated or ongoing legal action. Forensic accountants may also work with government agencies, including tax authorities, to recover illegally obtained funds or help prosecute money laundering. Forensic accountants can also help companies design accounting and auditing systems to manage and reduce risk.
The primary role of the forensic accountant is to verify information found during a financial audit. When an audit takes place, a forensic accountant takes a close and careful look at all questionable transactions that took place. Forensic accountants use the art of forensic finance to collect information about potential white-collar crimes for private businesses and nonprofit organizations. In addition to helping organizations find corporate criminals in their midst, forensic accountants may also work for private individuals and estates, locating and recovering monies that have been illegally obtained by third parties. Many forensic accountants work at the highest levels of federal law enforcement including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Areas of Focus:
Some forensic accountants apply forensic finance to quotidian and normal scenarios in the financial world. This includes helping clients manage risk reduction by engaging in due diligence. These forensic accountants provide advice to their clients regarding transactions such as venture capital investments, acquisitions, mergers, bankruptcy proceedings and the purchase of corporate commodities. When crimes such as embezzlement, fraud, money laundering and a criminal lack of transparency or proper accounting procedures have occurred, the forensic accountant may also be called upon to present testimony as an expert witness in a court of law.
Forensic finance requires training; a bachelor's degree is required. A master's degree and status as a Certified Public Accountant makes the task of finding employment easier. Those who already have a CPA may find it useful to obtain status as a Certified Fraud Examiner.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act provided for growth in the field of forensic finance. The law, drafted in response to accounting scandals at Enron and WorldCom, called for greater transparency and stricter regulation of accounting. As such, it created growth in the field. As of 2010, rookies in the field can expect to earn between $30,000 and $60,000 per year. Experienced professionals may earn upwards of $150,000 a year and beyond.