Find accounting schools near you

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ Program Director, Bruce Dorris, Explains the Importance of Fraud Awareness and Why Demand for CFE’s is on the Rise

Written by AnonymousNovember 28, 2011
Association of Certified Fraud Examiners

The ACFE was founded in 1988 by preeminent fraud expert and author, Dr. Joseph T. Wells, CFE, CPA. Dr. Wells’ insight as an accountant-turned-FBI agent led to the formation of a common body of knowledge known today as fraud examination. 

The mission of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners is to reduce the incidence of fraud and white-collar crime and assist in fraud detection and deterrence. The ACFE provides bona fide qualifications for Certified Fraud Examiners (CFE) and administers the CFE exam. The ACFE serves as the international representative for Certified Fraud Examiners to business, government and academic institutions.

To better understand the role of the ACFE and why CFE’s are increasingly in demand by today’s employers, we spoke with ACFE Program Director, Bruce Dorris. In the following interview with AccountingCareersForDummies.com, Bruce explains why fraud prevention is an ever-present concern in organizations and why CFE certification is on rise.

ACFD: Please tell me about the role and responsibilities of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

BD: The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners is the world’s largest anti-fraud organization and provider of antifraud training on an international basis.  We have nearly 60,000 members worldwide.  Within the corporate organizational structure, we focus on fraud investigation, but also on the fraud detection and prevention side of business, trying to reduce fraud across the globe.  This is not only within the ranks of the organization, but also in trying to change the mindset of people in general and their perception of fraud. We’ve seen that over the years, many times it takes a big event, an Enron, a WorldCom, to really get people’s attention. And what we’ve done-over twenty years’ now-is to beat that drum.  To let people know that fraud is something that we need to talk about.  It does happen in organizations and you need to be aware of it. You need to put in place the proper fraud prevention tools in order for an organization to be much more robust and much more transparent. Not only to an organizations’ employees, but to all stakeholders; those who invest in it, lending institutions and the like. 

ACFD: The Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credential denotes someone with expertise in fraud prevention, detection and deterrence – why is this important to not only organizations but to the general public as well?

BD: When you look at the examination to become a Certified Fraud Examiner, you see that we test the applicant with a total of 500 questions over four exam parts. One component of the exam is the financial transactions section, which is tested to see if the applicant understands the financial system which most organizations operate throughout the world.  We also have other components, the legal section, to determine that they understand the compliance and the government regulation side of what a fraud examiner needs to be looking for within an organization. Because within that model of accounting, we can go in and we can audit but what do we do with that? When we give it to an end user, that board of directors, what are the legal ramifications of that inquiry? And obviously it’s important to be a good investigator.  The investigation section is critical, from how you start that investigation through what to look for in an interview.  Lastly, we have the fraud prevention and deterrence section. We have these other three components but what do we do in order to bring that message home?  What do we need to do now, as an organization, to really stop as much fraud as we humanly can within the control system?  These four parts demonstrate what a CFE does.  An example of what a CFE does and how it impacts the business community is this: You’ve got someone investing in an organization and they want to know that when they see those financial statements that are issued, that somebody has looked at them and that somebody inside that organization has their best interests at heart.

I wrote a blog recently about Fraud Awareness Week, and part of the article was about the victim. And that victim, many times is that investor. Those are the ones who had their retirement accounts with a big organization that ultimately failed. We saw that with pension funds that invested heavily with Enron and WorldCom. And so these people, though they may not be within an organization, still are defrauded as well as those that lose their jobs as a victim within that organization. And to take it another step, we see this, of course, within the federal government and the state governments. Taxpayers want to know that their taxpayer dollars are being protected. They want to know that those responsible are doing everything within the government to avoid being victims of fraud. So those stakeholders all have a very keen interest in making sure those dollars are protected. And that’s where a CFE comes in and says, “Here’s what we’re doing. Let me show you the transparency within this organization, within this government agency or this enterprise and that we’re doing everything we can to prevent and deter fraud.”

ACFD: In your experience, how do employers respond to job applicants who have a CFE Credential versus an applicant who does not? In your opinion, does it provide an advantage in the job market? 

BD: Absolutely. When you look at a number of the federal agencies especially, they give preference to an individual at a position in fraud related areas. So perhaps a special agent or a financial analyst within the FBI or a financial analyst who is competing for a position, if they have the CFE credential and if there is another applicant that does not, they will score higher. They will have that ability to move forward because the credential is recognized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the SEC as well as other agencies.  So when you look at someone who has the CFE credential against someone who does not, for certain positions, they are likely going to get that job. When certain employers look at a pool of applicants, and they want to see that those applicants are CFE’s to protect the public for government agencies and also in publicly traded and private companies as well. In addition, they are asking current employees who are in these types of positions – especially those in the external and internal audit function -- to obtain  this training and the credential.  This is true over the last several years and this year especially. The report that I saw recently for this year, CFE’s have grown 12 percent over the same time last year. So we are seeing that big push within many organizations that they want to demonstrate that in addition to Sarbanes Oxley and all these initiatives out there that we have to do, we actually want to be proactive about setting our own tone at the top as it relates to fraud awareness and fraud examination as a whole.

AFD: Have you seen an increase in the number of accountants earning their CFE Credential and if so, to what do you attribute the increase?

BD: I attribute that increase to a number of things. One, there is simply just more fraud awareness now. We have grown so much over the last ten years and even in more recent years when the recession hit. About two years ago we did a study and looked at a number of issues and one part of the survey dealt with an organization’s spending on detective and preventative controls with an organization. If there’s a recession, there’s typically a retraction in spending, but what are those companies doing about fraud prevention and detection issues? And in the study we saw, only about 10-12 percent actually had a decrease in that anti-fraud related spending. The rest, some 80 percent, actually had an increase or at least the same level of spending as in the previous years. So what that tells us is this; organizations consider fraud something that they have to fight against. Because the last thing they need from an investor confidence standpoint is the perception that they are not doing anything to protect their investors’ dollars. Someone could come in and steal millions of dollars and it go undetected even longer due to the controls an organization failed to set up. Thus you’re not having the diligence with the tone you set at the top about how you want to fight fraud within your organization without spending. And because of that, you’re seeing a fairly substantial increase in that spending, in my opinion, because companies are really aware of the issues they face on a daily basis, not only internally, but also from external forces as well and what the public confidence is in them. They look at it from an investor’s standpoint and from a regulator’s standpoint as well. We’ve seen an increase in the number of organizations governed by regulatory bodies in both the financial service industry and in the healthcare industry, who want to do more about fraud prevention within their organization. For accountants who are just getting started in this field, there are so many opportunities for them.  Whether it’s a ‘Big Four’ or a regional accounting firm, whether you are going into government and working from an inspector general standpoint. Some are going into internal auditing or even becoming a special agent with the FBI and thus not only able to practice accounting but also being able to carry a weapon too. There are so many different opportunities out there for them.  And having the CFE designation, gets them one step closer in helping to secure that job over someone who does not.

With Fraud Awareness Week, we’re trying to make everyone aware, not just those within an organization, not just those who are regulated or the regulators, but everyone so that they can ask, hey, what’s my organization doing about this? And what can we change. You can visit FraudWeek.com for more information.

ACFD: Bruce, thank you so much for speaking with us today!

Check out more interviews at Accounting Careers for Dummies Interview Series.