On the Front Lines of Forensic Accounting

Kelly Pope, Associate Professor of Accounting

Kelly Pope, Associate Professor of Accounting

The enormous financial frauds that characterized the last decade have made forensic accounting a growth practice area. Demand calls for supply, and the profession has responded in many ways to produce accountants equipped to face and defeat the frauds of the future. From advanced audit software to psychometric studies, from futuristic internal control tools to knowing how to look someone straight in the eye during an interview, accountants are developing new skills and tools to fight back.

And as you’d expect, DePaul’s School of Accountancy and MIS is at the forefront of the response. School Profs. Cindy Durtschi, Kelly Pope and Sandra Shelton–typically DePaul teaching scholars–are making big differences in educating tomorrow’s forensic accountants, who will have to go far beyond looking for the traditional red flags of Fraud 101.

It starts with research, and, like her colleagues, Prof. Pope has written extensively on the causes of fraud, fraud prevention, and forensic accounting, and from many perspectives: measuring propensities toward fraud, student perceptions of ethics and resolving ethical dilemmas, barriers to whistleblowing, ethical reasoning in corporate officers, assembling a multi-disciplinary forensic accounting teams, and the special problems faced by the “high trust, low control” nonprofit sector.  And the research is practically applied. “Fraud is basically a people problem,” says Prof. Pope, who also has professional experience with KPMG’s Forensic Services; “the more we study behavior and motivation beyond simple greed, the better we can plan more effective preventive measures and achieve greater accountability.”

Prof. Durtschi

Prof. Durtschi

She presents on many platforms: in her classes, of course, but also in such journals as Behavioral Research in Accounting, Auditing: A Journal of Theory and Practice The CPA Journal, WebCPA,  and the Journal of Academic Ethics, at conferences, and  seminars for the Illinois Attorney General –wherever they are needed. Her documentary, “The Unusual Suspects: Stories of White Collar Crimes” has been featured on ABCnews.com and will be used by, among others,  the Wake Forest School of Business, the 2011 Beta Gamma Sigma Student Leadership Forum,  and the Center for Accounting Education’s Annual Student Leadership Forum sponsored by the Big 4. (A clip of “The Unusual Suspects” (created with former graduate assistant Karen Chodzycki) is on You Tube.) She also writes for her blog Higher Learning with Forbes.com.

Application of cutting-edge research in the classroom is DePaul’s core business, and Fraud Examination and Forensic Auditing, initially offered to DePaul undergraduates by Prof. Sandra Shelton, has prepared many students for forensics. The subject matter in the now-expanded course offered to graduate students calls for continuous innovation, such as Prof. Cindy Durtchi’s “Tallahassee Bean Counters,” a learning case in forensic auditing. Used at over 20 colleges nationwide, and winner of an AAA Innovations in Auditing Education Award, “TBC” simulates (with serious role play by the professor) a company with fraud problems students must solve. She’s also teaching the graduate-level Fraud Examination and Forensic Accounting this Spring, which she has augmented with components on litigation support and investigative skills ordinarily found in the courtroom or TV. (Interested?  Consider the forensic accounting possibilities of the genogram.)

Prof. Durtschi is compelling: “Forensics and fraud detection require solid accounting, yes, but in the course we cultivate intuition, ingenuity, skepticism, persistence—doggedly, creatively tracking down truth in uncertain and usually devious situations. There is no question: these qualities can be instilled in a classroom, and developed with practice.”

In addition to her teaching and educational research, Prof. Durtschi is an officer in the Forensic and Investigative Accounting Section of the American Accounting Association, and serves on the editorial board of the section’s research journal.

Sandra Shelton, KPMG Alumni Professor

Sandra Shelton, KPMG Alumni Professor

Research, cases, classes and courses lead to programs, and under the leadership of IIA Chicago chapter 2009 Educator of the Year Prof. Sandra Shelton, the School now offers an undergraduate concentration in Internal Auditing, designed to meet the increasing responsibilities of the internal audit function, especially as it confronts increasingly sophisticated frauds.

“The curriculum provides our students with a solid knowledge base and advanced skills, and is tremendous opportunity for them to consider internal auditing and forensics as a career path,” notes Prof. Shelton. “Students can get a good head start in a fascinating practice area.”

Prof. Shelton’s has effectively harnessed an impressive list of partners: the Chicago chapter of the Institute of Internal Auditors, the IIA’s Internal Auditing Education Partnership Program, CCH TeamMate personnel through a grant from ARC Logistics, and area Forensics Advisory Services practitioners. DePaul’s is one of only 17 programs nationally endorsed by the IIA. The next step? A Center for Internal Auditing at DePaul, offering an array of collaborative opportunities.

Prof. Shelton’s teaching includes the undergraduate Fraud Examination course, which she has conducted for the last five years. Her research also has a strong forensic emphasis. She has published in such journals as Accounting Horizons,Journal of Accounting Case ResearchInternal Auditing and the Accounting Review, and presented before the American Accounting Association and the European Accounting Association.

Good accounting will always catch bad accounting, just as good forensic accountants will inevitably catch the fraudsters. But good education is fundamental.

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