Wednesday, May 23, 2012

CFOs and Fraud

EY just released the latest version of its annual Global Fraud Survey and some of the findings are striking.    15% of surveyed CFOs expressed a willingness to pay bribes and 4% would be willing to misstate financial performance to help their business to survive an economic downturn (versus 9% and 3% last year, respectively).  While the survey was conducted globally, according to the report, "No strong patterns were identified in relation to the jurisdictions, industries or types of companies where these issues were more acute."  That is, these results aren't primarily driven by a few extreme locations or types of companies but appear to apply fairly generally everywhere, to all companies.

Importantly, these responses are likely understated.  That is, while 4% of CFOs admitted that they would commit fraud to survive and economic downturn, a sizable portion of the remaining 96% of CFOs may also be willing to commit fraud, even though they were unwilling to admit to such in the survey.  In fact, it's shocking that 1 in 25 CFOs actually admitted their willingness to commit fraud.

So why are so many CFOs willing to commit fraud?  According to a Bloomberg interview with EY's Richard Sibery (leader of fraud and investigations in the Americas), employees engaging in bribery or committing fraud aren't seeing many consequences to their actions: "Even if management is strongly communicating that bribery and corruption isn’t OK, they don’t ever see anyone being punished for that.  There are still some questions about whether there is teeth to company policies.”

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