As president of the Greater Pittsburgh Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), I recently had the pleasure of “attending” the organization’s annual Global Fraud Conference. Now in its 31st year, the gathering had to take place virtually due to restrictions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. So while we didn’t have the opportunity to chat over stale breakfast pastries or hotel bar cocktails, over 4,000 attendees from around the world learned from industry experts in breakout sessions, and networked with each other via a dedicated active message board.
The conference featured a number of keynote speakers, including the remarkably entertaining duo of Javier Pena and Stephen Murphy, retired DEA Agents who were the inspiration behind the Netflix series, “Narcos.” WIRED Editor-in-Chief Nicholas Thompson was also on hand, providing an insightful assessment of the ubiquitous role technology plays in our lives, and how it had evolved and will evolve further as a result of the pandemic.
ABC News Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis moderated an informative discussion on whistleblowers, overseeing a panel that featured Howard Wilkinson, who exposed an alleged multibillion dollar money-laundering scheme at Danske Bank; New York Times best-selling author Tom Mueller (“Crisis of Conscience”); Jane Norberg, Chief of the Office of the Whistleblower at the SEC; and Stephen Kohn, an attorney and leading expert in whistleblowing cases. The ACFE has highlighted whistleblowers over the last year and the panel discussion was a culmination of that coverage.
The conference closed with an interview featuring Gary Foster, who spoke about the $22 million fraud he perpetrated as an assistant vice president at Citigroup. The ACFE traditionally invites a convicted (non-compensated) fraudster to speak at the conference, not to glorify his or her actions, but to offer insight to fraud examiners into the ethical breakdown and motivation that led to the fraud.
Breakout sessions offered cutting-edge information and training that can be incorporated into current investigations, including data analytics, anti-money laundering and cryptocurrency fraud. The pandemic was a central theme throughout the conference and discussed by many of the speakers as it related to his or her area of expertise. Much like the change in the format of the conference itself, my main takeaway is that we must be willing to adapt to current circumstances and find new ways to perform our duties and serve our organizations, clients and communities.
At Schneider Downs, we find that participating in conferences, including virtual ones like this, helps us to stay at the forefront of the latest trends in fraud, forensic accounting, data analytics and investigations. We value the information we receive, and continually seek innovative ways to incorporate what we’ve learned to provide value to our clients.
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