When we are first appointed to review an insurance claim or dispute, people are often concerned that a "forensic accountant" has been engaged and assume we are only there to sniff out a fraud or knock the claim down. The parties involved, are often therefore defensive, guarded, sceptical and even fearful of us. However, as Shakespeare’s famous line from Romeo & Juliet says: “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” - so you could also call us: problem solvers, facilitators, clarifiers, interpreters or communicators.
The role of a forensic accountant is to get to the right number, as an independent expert, by working collaboratively with all parties involved. We act impartially to assist the process towards the fair settlement of the claim or resolution of the dispute. In legal cases our duty is to the court, not the party instructing us and we can be heavily criticised by the Judge if we are found to be partisan.
Once we start working on a case, we are usually able to dispel the initial scepticism or suspicion as we work with all parties towards achieving the same goal. In some cases, we have also been able to help the business look at their markets and various functions in a different way and a number have adopted new, more robust practices as a result.
It is interesting that people’s attitudes to us “forensic accountants” often change quite dramatically from the start to the end of the process. The problem may be in the name. Definitions of the word forensic range from “relating to, used in, or connected with a court of law” ; “…use of scientific techniques to solve crimes…” ; “ [to] examine evidence in order to help the police solve crimes” . While forensic accountants do play an important part in fraud investigations, our role is much wider - not limited to assisting crime investigations and certainly not just in the context of a court of law.
Perhaps the forensic accounting industry needs a rebrand? After all, if Romeo’s last name had been Jones, there would have been no need for fear, suspicion or dispute!