Xavier Magazine

Accounting for Fraud

A lousy economy means good business for Robert Kramer. And right now, business is booming. Kramer is in the fairly new occupation of “forensic accountant.” You may not have heard of it, but Kramer says you soon will. 

When the economy falls, fraud rises, and Kramer says that means more forensic accountants like him are needed to detect illegal schemes. A forensic accountant has the auditing skills to analyze financial dealings, the investigative skills to detect fraud and the legal skills to help a prosecutor make it stick in court.

“Forensic means anything to do with the courts,” says Kramer, a 1975 MBA graduate. “To be a forensic accountant you have to have an accounting background, but you have to be more forceful than a regular accountant.

“All accountants can add 2 and 2 and get 4, but many are not ‘people’ persons. When interviewing people, they look down at their notes and miss the body language of the person being interviewed. You’ve got to read body language and note when somebody starts slumping or looking away. You’ve got to know when to press someone and when to back off. When you know money is missing, you don’t ask, ‘Did you take the money?’ You look in their eyes and say, ‘Hey, I know you took the money. What did you do with it?’ ”

Kramer worked more than 30 years with the U.S. justice, treasury and defense departments and is now with the forensic accounting firm of Johnson, Cambra & Libbert in Cincinnati.

“Nobody offered fraud awareness 10 years ago,” says Kramer. “Now it’s needed because fraud is growing into an epidemic. Big fraud at places like Enron and Adelphia makes people’s jobs and retirement funds disappear. There are thousands of fraud cases that don’t get much publicity. There’s no question fraud increases as the economy worsens. The Internet has really given
impetus to a lot more fraud.”

Kramer relishes investigating a particular type of fraud. “I’m working on a couple of local cases where school systems had money embezzled,” he says. “The school board had to lay off teachers and curtail extracurricular activities. I love working on these cases and catching those people. That really turns me on.”

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