I don’t know the final total – maybe four, five, six… probably more. But there were a lot of sessions at the IIA All Star conference related to fraud. In fact, there was an entire track devoted to “Ethics and Fraud.” I attended three of them in the first two days of the conference.
We auditors do love us some fraud, don’t we? I’m here to tell you that, if a chapter has a luncheon session that includes “fraud”, it will come close to selling out; that almost every session of almost every conference I’ve attended which discusses fraud is full; that there is something about the concept of fraud investigation, whether it is a part of what our individual departments actually do, whether we really believe it is something internal audit should be doing, whether we have heard the stories once or one hundred times, that seems to make auditors go all aquiver.
And I am no better. If I attend a luncheon meeting on fraud or a conference session on fraud or just start to hear fraud stories, I find myself in my happy place. “My name is Mike and I’m a fraudoholic.”
And the interesting part is that, very seldom, is there anything new. Quickly, quickly I add that I am not speaking ill of those presentations. It is often just as important to reaffirm what we know as it is to learn something new. And, yes, there are always opportunities to glean new information on techniques – interviewing, data analysis, etc. But those are generally small parts to broader presentations.
That doesn’t make it a bad thing. Two of the sessions I attended were covering what was, to me, ground previously trod. Excellent presentations. I saw some interesting things I might use. But there was nothing earth-shatteringly new.
And this is not meant to be a discussion of why you should not attend such sessions. No. Go to these to be reminded what is important. (And to hear the war stories. Come on, admit it, we all love them.) And go to them because, sometimes, we get surprised.
As I mentioned, I attended three such sessions. The third one was different. It focused on the ethics issue. This wasn’t about catching the criminals; it was about understanding what makes a criminal in the first place, and the role controls and reviews play in deterring fraud and improving (yes, improving) the ethical atmosphere of an organization.
There was still the fraud triangle and a few other details we’ve all seen a number of times. But, rather than going down the roads we have gone down before, the presentation brought a fresh perspective to the area.
Yes, it is true we may want to be careful and not let our fascination with fraud investigation get the better of us – causing us to revisit familiar territory because it is fun and comfortable and…well, familiar. But that concern cannot keep us from exploring old territory that has a new road map. Embrace your inner fraud geek and see what new things you might learn.