The External Auditor s Responsibility in Detecting Financial Statement Fraud. Welcome! Salah Fahmy, CFE, CPA Financial Expert Public Prosecution

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1 The External Auditor s Responsibility in Detecting Financial Statement Fraud Welcome!, Financial Expert Public Prosecution

2 The External Auditor s Responsibility in Detecting Fraud Dubai ACFE Conference Jan /5/16

3 The Issue Fraudulent Financial Statements (FFS) expose External Auditors (EA) intentional negligence that cannot be accepted anymore. Are they untouchable? Are they inviolable? Auditors reports (always clean) issued without any qualification, although fraud is uncovered during audit assignments. Materiality is ignored regardless of its effect. Absence of disclosure is unbelievable. 3 11/5/16

4 Responsibility of Issuance FFS Obviously, the EA is primarily responsible for the issuance of a Defrauded Audited Financial Statements (DAFS). Simply, because, if the EA would not have approved & issued DAFS, it would not have been distributed to the users/readers. Definitely, the client s management is also responsible for manipulating the books & records, as well as hiding material information, that if disclosed, would change the stakeholder s decision. 4 11/5/16

5 EA s Approach The EA is concerned with issues that could put him under suspicion. He is always keen to protect his reputation from being hurt, therefore, he obeys his clients demands subject to not being questioned. So, why not acquiesce to his client s requests to retain him because nothing would prove that fraud existed while doing the audit and EA knew it? 5 11/5/16

6 EA s Approach EA knows well that there is NO law to accuse him of not informing the respective authorities about a fraud that has been perpetrated. 6 11/5/16

7 Auditor s Report The fairly represented statement in the auditor s report is a joke. Because DAFS are sometimes neither fair nor represented. Fairly; means excluding misstatements. Represented; means expressing a full reality without omitting material facts that if ignored would change the user s decision. 7 11/5/16

8 Auditor s Report DAFS may include both a misstatement as well as ignore a material disclosure. Without a qualification in the auditor s report or a disclosure in the footnotes of the FS, with the existence of misstatements, the detection of fraud is a challenge to be uncovered. 8 11/5/16

9 Financial Statement Fraud Assets/revenue overstatements: - Timing difference - Fictitious revenue - Concealed liabilities & expenses - Improper disclosure - Improper asset valuation Assets/revenue understatements 9 11/5/16

10 8 Key Accounting Principles with an Materiality Matching Conservatism Going concern Cost Objective evidence Consistency Full disclosure Emphasis on Fraud 10 11/5/16

11 How DAFS Issued? The EA knows his client s business, history, and most considerable issues, as well as their materiality to the client. Accounting treatment misstatements may appear during current or final audit visits. Weaknesses in the client s internal controls are well known to the EA; outcomes of such weaknesses turned out to be a tremendous fraud. Management letters are drafted for audit findings. Some findings require a correction of entries in the client s books & records /5/16

12 How DAFS Issued? The client refuses the EA s suggestion to correct his books. Offence occurs & the issue comes up; debates begin. EA has to qualify his opinion in the AR & disclose the issues in the FS. The FS draft has been completed & negotiated between the EA & his client without changes in the client s books. FS draft includes the misstatements. Management wins the first round /5/16

13 How DAFS Issued? EA has drafted the Auditor s report (AR), including a qualification & a full disclosure of the findings. During draft discussions with the client, the EA has been convinced to remove his/her qualification and omit the full disclosure. Instead of that, the EA discloses his material audit findings in the financial statement footnotes /5/16

14 How DAFS Issued? After all, the client objects to the footnote disclosure in the financial statements, and it has been eliminated upon his request. Management wins the second & final round. Final draft of the AFS has been approved by both the client s CEO & the EA s partner. DAFS have been issued, released, and distributed to the stakeholders containing misstatements & ignoring material disclosures. The audit is over, the client is happy, and the EA is happy too but stressed and alerted. This stress & alertness would be helpful when interviewing the EA /5/16

15 How to Detect FFS (Documents Review) Read the AR carefully in the AFS. Look for any qualification, disclaimer, or adverse opinion in AR. In case of any qualification, match the text of such qualification with the related FS figure & its note. Ensure that the disclosure is complete & correct. Perform an analytical review for the FS figures, because they always talk and may tell you something that was missing/hidden in the statements /5/16

16 How to Detect FFS (Documents Review) Perform ratio analysis for the current & previous year numbers of the FS (comparatives). Record any unusual fluctuation or unjustified increase/decrease in the current FS with its comparative figures. Study the management style and its history in the business market regarding its integrity. Write down any offences detected and assess their materiality to the AR & AFS /5/16

17 How to Detect FFS (Documents Review) Assessing detected offences and their materiality with related AR would expose the failure of the EA in performing his/her duties, as well as whether there was negligence. Assessing offences detected with related AFS would expose any management fraud and the EA s collusion with it. Documents available for the examination process may not reveal any direct evidence of the offence. Evidence might appear during interviews with the EA and/or client s personnel /5/16

18 Interviewing External Auditors Of course, we should not forget that we are not a jurisdiction authority to judge the EA. On the contrary, a polite & respectable interview should be maintained. By not following this, we will not be able to draw the EA s attention to inform us of the whole story. Listen to him carefully & understand his point of view /5/16

19 Interviewing External Auditors Show him that you have the ability to realize his motives in involving such acts. Look for the way in which the offence has been committed and seize its tool (the document) when available. If the interview ended without getting the supported proof of documents, you may obtain it from interviewing the FM & CEO of the client /5/16

20 Identify Perpetrators Primarily accused is the EA s partner who signed off on the DAFS. Secondly accused is the CEO/Chairman who signed off on the DAFS. Both of their signatures MUST be shown on the DAFS as proof of the offence perpetrated. Their involvement occurs by having their signatures on the DAFS and not by their occupations in the authority matrix or CR /5/16

21 Writing a CFE Report The fraud examiner report must be written: In conclusive, straightforward language. By shortcut statements & straight to the point. Long statements, telling stories, and nonconstructive words are not favored. Define the nature of the offence and its value. Define the name & occupation of the perpetrator. Obtain the evidence/proof of the offence. Attach all supporting documents to the report /5/16

22 Laws Regulating EAs Work There are three laws that regulate the EA s work: The Commercial Companies Law The Auditing Profession Law The Penal Code 22 11/5/16

23 Felony Versus Misdemeanor In most Arabic countries: Fraud cases, bribery, & embezzlement that involve public funds, entities, or officers are classified as felonies in the penal code (Criminal law). Imprisonment for a felony indictment exceeds three & up to ten years, but for misdemeanor indictments, imprisonment is three years or less /5/16

24 EA s Indictments in the Three Laws o In most Arabic countries, there is nothing indicting EAs directly with a criminal felony unless: o The offence involved public funds, a public entity, or a public officer AND, o The EA connived with a perpetrator to commit the offence. o Then, both the perpetrator & the EA would be punished with imprisonment & fines according to the penal code. o Two other laws regulate private funds offences & impose punitive penalties only over the EA, which never include imprisonment /5/16

25 Suggested Remedies oea s alleged negligence regarding the fraud detection should be recognized under the rule of willful blindness, which has been defined as the deliberate avoidance of knowledge of the fact, is the equivalent of actual knowledge. Willful blindness may be proven by the circumstances surrounding the transaction and the defendant s conduct /5/16

26 Suggested Remedies o The EA s wrong act should be classified under special unlawful activity (SUA). However, SUAs currently include virtually every U.S. crime that produces an economic advantage, including aircraft piracy, wire fraud, copyright infringement, embezzlement, export violations, illegal gambling, narcotics offences, racketeering, and even some environmental crimes. (18 USC 1956 AND 1957) 26 11/5/16

27 Suggested Remedies o Concededly, when an EA is involved in FFS, it means that he produces an unfair economic advantage for his client. o For this reason, such an act by an EA should be recognized under SUA & the willful blindness rule. o This could be done by enacting a new law or making an addition/amendment article to the current criminal law (penal code), or other two law that treat with the EA /5/16

28 Suggested Remedies o Fraud red flags in the EA s scope of work MUST be defined & disclosed if detected during audit visits. o Red flags are to be disclosed in a separate para in the AR, which should be restructured to reflect such para. o The new para is to be disclosed whether fraud is detected or not. o This is to put the fraud burden of proof on the EA s shoulders and not on the investigation parties. o Audit standards & ethics should be updated to include the newly developed standards & rules to reflect these issues /5/16

29 The End 29 11/5/16

30 The External Auditor s Responsibility in Detecting Financial Statement Fraud Welcome!, Financial Expert Public Prosecution

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