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THOUGHTS ON OCCUPATIONAL FRAUD
I suggest we at least begin our search in the related field of law enforcement. There are no guarantees, and one can argue powerfully that there are worlds of difference in the law enforcement function and that of the forensic professional. Yet, I would counter, there may be bits of gold in those distant hills and, as a profession, it is our responsibility to explore them. Law enforcement must deal with the population at large: the young, old, infirm, deranged, previously convicted, aliens, substance abusers, and those acting in a moment of spontaneous rage. We should have a huge initial advantage. None of our co-workers is a sullen 15-year-old with a knife, a jealous lover spurned once too often, or a three-time loser out on parole. We may have issues of workplace violence close to us, but they are not our concern. We are forensic professionals. Of all the multitude of humankind’s sins and woes, we need only concern ourselves with fraud. We can leave murder, substance abuse, and breaking and entering to our colleagues with the badges and guns or to corporate security.
The existence of such organizational issues that are the purview of other units and departments can actually work to our advantage. At first blush we may see them as competitors for scarce resources, but they may actually be partners-in-the-making. Workplace violence, for example, was a term little known or used 20 or 30 years ago, yet a study released in 2002 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that between 1993 to 1999 there were an average of 1.7 million incidents of workplace violence in the United States each year! Workplace violence accounted for an average of 900 homicides each year, and all workplace violence, fatal and nonfatal, accounted for 18 percent of all violent crime in the United States.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about these shocking statistics is that they are actually down by 44 percent! They fell from 16 incidents per 1,000 workers to 9 incidents per 1,000 workers.26 One of the reasons for this is that workplace violence was being publicized. It is likely you will see a report on the latest outrage in the workplace on television within several days of reading this paragraph. Because of such coverage awareness developed, and with awareness by shareholders, executives, managers, workers, and human resources and corporate security professionals came action. The problem still exists, but progress is being made. Is it possible that some of the techniques being applied to the reduction of workplace violence have applicability for our purposes? It is an area worthy of exploration.
But even addressing a more narrow scope of concern, our task may be long and difficult. At this writing, players for both the New York Yankees and the New Orleans Saints have been dismissed for theft of personal items from their teammates. Both had million dollar contracts.27 Why do people do such apparently irrational things?
So, too, the military. A news story about misuse of government credit cards makes the following observation:
More than 700 military officers have walked away from debts on their government-issued credit cards, and one Navy employee who charged thousands in personal expenses has been promoted to the office that oversees Army finances.28
A later report indicated these 700 officers had amassed $1.1 million in debts on these cards.29
Why do people in trusted positions, even with security clearances, do such things? And why do their employers, in this case the U.S. government, handle them the way they do?
We have many questions and few answers. I suggest we begin the search.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN?
We have seen that law enforcement had, for many decades, problems highly similar to ours. They were faced with high incidence rates, an often-unsupportive body politic, a public insistent on action and answers, and few magic bullets in their cognitive guns. There were many false starts and more than a few blind alleys. Yet, after decades of trying, they appear to have found a couple of things that work. Is there anything in their apparent success that offers the forensic profession any hope? Can these ideas that appear to have worked in the large and tumultuous environment of society at large be somehow translated into the much more confined walls of the organization with similar positive results? If modifications are required, so be it, but how, when, and where do we start?
To begin this process of exploration, let us start with an attempt to understand what seems to have made these concepts work. The first is community, a theme that seems to run strongly throughout all of the theories examined and one with both simple definitions and maddening nuances. We are all familiar with the term community; most of us live in one. It implies, by definition, lines of demarcation—an element of separateness from what is nearest to it. But we often use the term in other ways as well, as when we refer to the forensic community, implying a commonality brought about not by physical proximity as by shared interests, similar backgrounds, or like areas of endeavor.