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The Value of Forensic Accountants in Litigation

When working with attorneys for the first time, it is surprising how many have not previously utilized the skills and expertise of a forensic accountant in their past cases. Attorneys may use their own personnel to summarize financial information or perform calculations, often based upon the wishes of their client to keep fees lower. It is the experience of seasoned forensic accountants, however, that the value and efficiencies brought to the client’s team often exceed the costs incurred.

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Attorneys use forensic accountants to decipher and translate complex issues into reports and exhibits that can be more easily understood and digested by the parties, judges and juries. Often, the financial issues (and presentation thereof) are the deciding factors in how the case is resolved or ultimately decided in a court of law.

An effective forensic accountant is a mathematical sleuth, who not only crunches the numbers, but also has the experience, training and investigative instinct to look past the numbers to develop a roadmap of the facts and translate otherwise daunting data into a clear picture.  The discipline of forensic accounting involves the application of both an inherent understanding of complex financial transactions as well as skills in communication, judgement, interviewing and thinking outside of the proverbial box.  Because experienced forensic accountants have often been on both sides of the aisle in legal proceedings, they may also be equipped to determine what counter-claims, defenses or arguments the opposing party may present in response to issues at hand, and thus be prepared to provide sound testimony and evidence to support the integrity of their case and the legal party’s pleadings.

It has been my personal experience, conducting forensic engagements for more than 20 years, that merely being involved in a case has resulted in positive outcomes for my clients.  Once an opposing party is aware that a forensic accountant is on board, they know the case has gotten real.  In cases such as divorce, shareholder/partner disputes, bankruptcy and construction litigation, once the opposition is put on notice, they must seriously consider their exposure in the case. They then need to decide whether they want each aspect of their financial dealings analyzed and scrutinized by the auditors. I was recently retained in a corporate dispute case where, after a year of trying to settle, an attorney I’ve worked with in the past asked if I would be interested in the case and, if so, be their testifying expert.  A week after being disclosed as a testifying expert, I received a call that I should halt work due to a settlement offer being presented by the opposing party.

Whether you are an attorney or party involved in a financial dispute, consider the value of hiring a forensic accountant in the future as you analyze the facts and determine the best ways to both leverage your position and present your case in the most effective way possible.  

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