February 1, 2016 by Aaron Rindahl
Copeland Buhl

Many of us associate greed with negative actions such as stealing, swindling, lying or cheating.  But, many of us may be able to recall watching John Stossel, perhaps trying to be an optimist by suggesting that greed is what drives this country and makes products, services and businesses better.  Unfortunately the context of this article highlights when greed is bad.

Copeland Buhl & Company PLLP currently has two employees that are trained certified fraud examiners: Jason Frick, CPA, CFE and Aaron Rindahl CPA, CFE.  The certified fraud examiner (CFE) credential is achieved through training and passing a four part exam.  Standards for the CFE credential are established by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).  CFEs are trained to:

Identify and reduce opportunities for fraud

  • Implement effective anti-fraud controls
  • Continuously improve anti-fraud measures based on new risks and technologies
  • Educate employees to deter fraud and report wrongdoing
  • Resolve allegations or suspicions of fraud
  • Assist in the recovery of fraud losses

Why should fraud be a concern for small businesses?

According to the ACFE’s 2014 Report to the Nations “The smallest organizations tend to suffer disproportionately large losses due to occupational fraud. Additionally, the specific fraud risks faced by small businesses differ from those faced by larger organizations, with certain categories of fraud being much more prominent at small entities than at their larger counterparts.”  Fraud in small businesses can often go undetected due to a low level of administrative staff, making segregation of duties difficult.

Copeland Buhl & Company PLLP has worked with clients through difficult fraud investigations as a part of the loss recovery process.  As an example, a small business client approached us as they discovered the office manager who was responsible for substantially all of the accounting and payroll for the company had not been properly withholding for benefits on their own paycheck.  We recommended performing some forensic procedures over the payroll process as well as other disbursements.  The investigation ultimately uncovered fraudulent disbursements in excess of $550,000 over the course of 5 years, primarily due to the alteration of vendor checks within the accounting software and utilizing multiple check signers to create duplicate payments for legitimate vendor invoices.  The office manager had taken advantage of the lack of internal controls over the disbursement process. 

When a small business notices that there may be fraudulent activity within their business, it can be an embarrassing moment.  Copeland Buhl & Company PLLP has the expertise to help you through this difficult time.  In addition to responding to suspected fraud, we can perform procedures to reduce the risk associated with greed.  Internal control assessments can help identify weaknesses in internal control and a plan can be developed to mitigate the risk of fraud within your organization.  Please contact us if you are interested in more information and how Copeland Buhl & Company PLLP can assist you.