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The Unabashed Role of Accountants


FBI Seal Displayed Over CurrencyYou know what's said about accountants? That they're hired to explain that you didn't make the money you did?

But not in the FBI. Earlier this week Executive Assistant Director Grant Ashley painted a different kind of picture of accountants to an audience of internal auditors in Chicago , admitting up front that he'd entered the FBI as a certified public accountant.

"You are the first line of defense against corporate fraud—you are the beat cops and first responders," he said. "You are the conscience of the organizations you audit. You are the custodians of their ethics. You are not just checking boxes—you are constantly scanning the horizon for inconsistencies or irregularities, like an FBI agent conducting routine surveillance."

In a "30,000-foot overview" of current financial crime and public corruption threats, Mr. Ashley discussed some of today's hottest trends: public officials accepting bribes...identity theft...mortgage fraud...health care fraud...and corporate fraud.

We encourage you to read his complete remarks, which include:

  • A summary of "Operation Lively Green"—an undercover investigation of public corruption along the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • An identity fraud case in New York that involved 30,000 victims and losses of over $11 million.
  • The latest trends in mortgage fraud, like property flipping and equity skimming.
  • The six most common schemes in corporate fraud. For example, ever heard of "swap transactions"? "Channel stuffing"?
  • The importance of provisions in the Sarbanes Oxley Act that make it harder for corporate crooks to flourish.

But what did we mean about the Unabashed Role of Accountants Driving a Stake into the Heart of White Collar Crime? In Mr. Ashley's words:

"We are not so very different. In both the FBI and in public accounting, our mission is to protect the American public. As accountants, we seek truth. If we do our job right, we increase investor confidence in the marketplace—and the economy flourishes. ...We also share common values. The core values instilled in every accountant—the values of fairness, transparency, ethics, and integrity—are the same core values ingrained in every FBI Agent. ...Together we have exposed and investigated corruption. We have removed corrupt leaders from power. And we have worked hard to remind Americans that we are on their side."