The world’s leading Forensic Accountants: who are they?Get to know some of the most well-known and inspiring forensic accountants in the world.
Forensic Accounting is a highly specialised field that requires extensive knowledge of accounting, auditing, and investigative techniques. Examining financial records to uncover fraud or other financial irregularities, forensic accountants play an important role in many high-profile cases, including corporate scandals and white-collar crime investigations.
Here, we've compiled some of the most well-known and inspiring forensic accountants in the world.
Harry Markopolos gained fame as a whistle-blower who alerted authorities to Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme years before it was uncovered. He spent years as a forensic accountant investigating Madoff's suspicious returns and eventually provided evidence to regulators that led to Madoff's arrest.
He’s written a book about his experiences titled “No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller” in which he says: “Certainly one of the most important things I learned is that numbers can be deceiving. There is a logic to mathematics, but there is also the underlying human element that must be considered. Numbers can't lie, but the people who create those numbers can and do. As so many people have learned, forgetting to include human nature in an equation can be devastating.”
In addition to his work as a forensic accountant, Markopolos is an adjunct professor at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. Now with more than 20 years’ experience in his field, his tenacity and dedication to uncovering financial fraud have made Markopolos an inspiring and respected figure in forensic accounting.
Tracy Coenen has over 20 years of experience in fraud investigation and prevention. She’s worked on numerous high-profile cases involving embezzlement, Ponzi schemes, and securities fraud.
In addition to her work as a forensic accountant, Coenen is also a prolific writer and speaker on topics related to financial investigations and fraud prevention. She’s authored several books on the subject, including "Expert Fraud Investigation: A Step-by-Step Guide" and "Essentials of Corporate Fraud." And, she also maintains a popular blog called "The Fraud Files," where she shares insights and analysis on current events related to financial crime. She claims, “There is a wide open market for accounting bloggers to be thought leaders (and to market themselves) because so few accounting and finance professionals are blogging about their profession.”
As a specialist on finding money during divorce, Coenen has another book “Find me the money: Take control, uncover the truth and win the money you deserve in your divorce,” due out in May 2023.
Coenen's contributions to the field of forensic accounting have earned her numerous accolades throughout her career. In 2013, she was named one of the Top 25 Women in Accounting by CPA Practice Advisor magazine. She has also been recognised as a Woman of Influence by the Milwaukee Business Journal and was awarded the Distinguished Achievement Award by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) in 2018. Her dedication to promoting ethics and integrity in business has made her a role model for aspiring forensic accountants everywhere.
Fiona Hotston Moore
Fiona Hotston Moore is another female forensics professional famous for her involvement in family courts, and specifically matrimonial disputes. A spearhead in her field, she’s known for having written a complete guide to Forensic Accounting and Finance.
She states, “I enjoy the challenge as a forensic accountant of applying my technical knowledge and commercial experience in a financial investigation and endeavouring to instil the financial information to produce a report, which is a value to the user (which can include the court legal counsel or clients). No two assignments are the same, and I relish the opportunity to work alongside other professionals in facilitating a solution to a financial dispute.”
Howard Schilit is an expert in detecting accounting tricks used by companies to inflate their earnings or hide losses. He is the CEO of Schilit Forensics as well as founder of the Center for Financial Research and Analysis (CFRA), which provides research on forensic accounting issues to investors.
With his extensive research on the "quality of earnings" and accounting irregularities in financial reports, he authored the book "Financial Shenanigans: How to Detect Accounting Gimmicks & Fraud in Financial Reports." In an interview with ValueWalk on his career and book, he shared, “…what we are assessing is human behavior. It is not an accounting exercise and not a finance exercise.”
Schilit's expertise in the early detection of accounting fraud and weak corporate governance has made him a go-to partner for top-tier institutional investors and other stakeholders seeking forensic accounting services.
Cynthia Cooper is best known for her role in uncovering the massive accounting fraud at WorldCom in 2002. As Vice President of Internal Audit at WorldCom, she discovered $11 billion dollars of fraudulent accounting entries.
Now famous for becoming a true corporate whistle-blower, her book Extraordinary Circumstances: The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower provides intimate details of her fight to bring the fraud to light.
Cooper quoted in an article with Auditboard, “Looking at the common threads across not only WorldCom, but Enron and Tyco and all of these big scandals, a lot of them were driven by pride, greed, fear, and misguided loyalty. Behind the accounting machinations of the fraud schemes themselves, these were really stories about people and choices. We all have the power of choice.”
Sam E. Antar
If you’re familiar with the name Sam Antar, you may wonder why a convicted felon has made our list! But the story of Antar is one of transformation and after playing his part in a high-profile security fraud during the 1980s, he went on to use his knowledge and experience to help others to identify criminal activity.
Interestingly, in an interview with MarketWatch he revealed, “I loved doing crime. The only reason why I retired from crime is because I got caught.”
Following his conviction, the now semi-retired Sam Antar worked as a Forensic Accountant for government agencies, law firms and accounting firms as well as various other companies to uncover fraudulent activity.
Tom Golden is a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) with over 30 years of experience investigating financial crimes for law enforcement agencies across the United States. Between 1982 and 2008 he was Partner-in-charge with the Chicago Forensic Accounting Investigation Practice for accounting giant PwC. But this impressive role wasn’t his first career: Golden started out as a sales manager before taking the decision to follow his dream and become an accountant with one of the US’s Big Eight a little later in life, in his thirties.
Talking of his role with Fraud Magazine, he explains, “In my first public company audit I was exposed to fraud in a manner most aren’t. I was assigned to audit the largest asset on the balance sheet. A week into the audit I suspected anomalies in the books. Without telling anyone, for fear of being wrong, I conducted my own clandestine investigation at night and on weekends. A month later, with the earnings release less than a week away, I called the audit partner at home in the middle of the night to persuade him to come in and review my findings. He did. Hours later I found myself presenting to the company’s board of directors.”
Since then, Tom Golden has become one of the best-known Forensic Accountants for running large-scale, global investigations.
These are just some examples of inspiring forensic accountants who’ve made significant contributions to their field through their work uncovering financial wrongdoing or educating others about how it can be prevented.
Are you keen to consider your next step in the world of Forensic Accounting? Apollo Solutions is connecting top-tier forensics talent with Accountancy firms, Consultancies, Banks, Private Equity firms and Insurance firms worldwide. Get in touch for a confidential discussion.