Frequently Asked Questions

What is a forensic accountant?

Think financial detective; the combination of an auditor and a private investigator, that narrates the play-by-play from the financial facts collected from various sources. A forensic accountant investigates financial matters in response to an event, allegation or dispute, advises on the financial aspects of litigated and non-litigated issues, and determines the number of losses, all while remaining neutral and unbiased.

How is a forensic accountant different from an auditor?

A forensic accountant has additional specialized training, experience, and credentials for financial forensics. A traditional CPA (Certified Public Accountant) auditor performs tests of transactions to measure compliance with reporting standards and to obtain reasonable assurance that financial statements are free from material misstatement. A forensic accountant tailors testing and analysis procedures to address specific allegations, concerns, or financial matters and is experienced in litigation support services.

What are the benefits of hiring an expert that is Certified in Financial Forensics?
CFF Wheel by AICPA

CFF Wheel by AICPA

The Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) credential is issued by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and demonstrates a high level of competency in the area of forensic accounting. The CFF starts with a CPA’s core skills, adds fundamental forensic knowledge around laws, courts and dispute resolution; planning and preparation; information gathering and preserving; discovery; reporting and testimony and then adds specialized forensic knowledge in the areas of asset tracing, economic damages, shareholder disputes, family law, fraud prevention, detection and response, bankruptcy and insolvency, electronic data analysis, and valuation.

What are the benefits of hiring an expert that is a Certified Fraud Examiner?

The Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credential is issued by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) and signifies proven expertise in fraud prevention, detection, and investigation. In retaining an expert with the CFE credential, there is an assurance that the expert is well-trained and has the necessary experience to identify red flags that indicate potential fraud schemes and improprieties, as well as to properly investigate and gather evidence.

When should a forensic accountant be retained?

An expert should be hired in the early stages of a dispute/financial matter. A financial expert can identify financial and economic areas of significance and red flags in a case and determine the associated documents needed. A forensic accountant is better suited to know what financial information to ask for. Sadly, many times the forensic accountant is retained too late, after discovery is closed, and the necessary documents can no longer be obtained.

Who should retain the financial expert; client or attorney?

The expert can be hired by either the client or the client’s attorney. Attorneys sometimes prefer to retain the financial expert due to attorney-client privileges.

How can a forensic accountant help my case?

A good forensic accountant analyzes complex financial issues and explains the facts, calculations, and economic concepts in an easily understood manner, which is a very important trait of an expert witness.

How long will it take to complete the engagement and how much will it cost?

It depends. Each case is very different making it impossible to estimate how long it will take and the total amount of fees. There are a few exceptions, such as calculations of lost earnings in personal injury cases. In general, it depends on the complexity of subject matter, the number of years, accounts and transactions subject to analysis, the completeness of the responses to our requests for documents and information, and whether a report and/or testimony is needed.

How can clients and attorneys reduce the fees on their engagement and keep money in their pockets?
  1. Provide documents in electronic format (pdf, Word, Excel). Completely respond to document requests and do not respond in a piece-meal manner.  Organize the documents provided.  Create an index of the documents produced.  Don’t provide duplicates of documents.
  2. Retain Wickes Forensic Accounting & Consulting LLC because;
    1. Our staff is experienced and efficiently and effectively completes engagements;
    2. We use a software that we can employ in certain analysis, which expedites the analysis and summary of transactions; less analysis time equals lower fees; and
    3. Our hourly rates are competitive and lower than many of our competitors, purely as a benefit to our clients.
What happens after the retainer agreement is executed?

We may meet with the client and attorney, if applicable, to gain an understanding of the details of the issues at hand, perform a brief review of certain pertinent documents, and/or draft a list of documents needed for the analysis requested.

What if you don't have a litigation case or you don't need testimony at trial; can you and should you hire a forensic accountant?

Yes. We provide consulting services in both litigated and non-litigated matters. Our experience and specialized training are an asset in consulting engagements, such as internal control consulting for fraud prevention, assisting Counsel with financial aspects in a deposition, and reviewing opposing expert’s report and assisting Counsel with cross-examination of the expert.

How do you know if you need a professional who specializes in financial forensics?

If any of the questions/concerns below apply in your situation (or you are on the other side of the dispute), you would benefit by hiring Wickes Forensic Accounting and adding them to your team of professionals.

Divorce/Family Law

  • My spouse handled all the finances and I am uncertain everything is accounted for now that we had to split it all up.
  • I think I need help understanding various settlement options.
  • Has my spouse hidden money in anticipation of the divorce?
  • I think my spouse reported less income for his/her business because the business collects cash.
  • My spouse’s business pays for a variety of our living expenses, does this impact the amount of maintenance or child support I will receive?
  • I had certain assets or accounts before I got married. Now that I’m getting divorced, what do I need to do to not share these assets with my soon to be ex-spouse?
  • I received an inheritance or personal injury award. How can I determine how much I can claim as my separate property and is not subject to split?

Economic Damages and Various Financial Topics

  • My relative passed away and I am the beneficiary of the inheritance. I am concerned that:
    • the amount doesn’t seem correct
    • there were improper transactions and use of the money
    • the trust administrator won’t provide account statements and records
  • My business was party to a contract. The other party breached the contract. I need to determine the resultant losses to my business.
  • My business lost profits because of some type of damage. I need to determine how much so I can collect from the insurance company or the responsible party.
  • I was injured (at work or in a car accident, for example) and we need know the total amount of lost wages, benefits, and medical costs.
  • I have a malpractice case pending and I need to find out the resulting losses to move forward with my case.
  • I recently sold my business and I think the purchaser is underpaying the earn-out agreed upon.

Fraud

  • I think my employee is stealing money from me.
  • I have discovered that one of my employees has been engaging in multiple fraud schemes and I need a Fraud Examiner to perform an investigation to determine the extent of the losses, prepare a report, assist with prosecution, and assist with
    preparing the proof of loss for our insurance claim.
  • I have been accused of stealing receipts by my past employer but I didn’t do it.
  • I’ve noticed that one of my employees goes on a lot of vacations, drives a really nice car, and seems to live a lifestyle that exceeds his/her salary level. Do I need to be concerned? Is there anything I should do to check it out?

Stakeholder Disputes

  • My business partner breached our agreement
  • I think my business partner is diverting funds and/or diverting sales to a side business.
  • I am a minority shareholder and I think I should be receiving more distributions.
  • I think my business partner has executed self-serving transactions or questionable transactions between our business and his/her other companies or related parties.
  • My business partner has agreed to buy me out at a fair value. However, I think my partner, who took care of the books, paid non-business expenditures from the business and a pocketed some of the revenue. Because this impacts the value of the business, I need someone to investigate these potential issues.
  • We are closing our business and need help determining the number of final distributions.

Construction

  • I think I am being overbilled by the contractor.
  • I want to verify the time and materials billed on this T&M project.
  • I want to audit the contract accounting in accordance with the provisions of the construction contract.