The American Institute of CPAs has approved the creation of the forensic accounting credential.

The Certified in Financial Forensics credential will combine specialized forensic accounting expertise with the knowledge and skills that make CPAs trusted business advisors. The credential will launch in early fall.

Robert R. Harris, chair of the National Accreditation Commission, noted that the proposal for the forensic credential has received widespread support from members, including comments saying that it would raise the image of the profession and meet market needs, and that the time was right.

However, some opposition was voiced at regional council meetings. For example, there was concern about dilution of the CPA brand and that there is already a Certified Fraud Examiner designation administered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. But Harris sees differences between the two credentials.

“We feel that the CFE is much too narrow,” he said.

The new credential will encompass a variety of areas, including bankruptcy and insolvency, computer forensics, economic damages, family law, fraud investigations, litigation support, stakeholder disputes and valuations.

“Those of us who work in the litigation profession — people who testify and go into court — realize they’d better be able to present themselves as an expert, and they get one shot,” said Harris.

During November and December 2007, the AICPA polled 150 law firms, and three-quarters of the respondents said that they expect a forensic accounting expert to have a specialized credential. Fifty-nine percent of those polled prefer a CPA, and said that they would value the combination of the CPA license and the AICPA’s credential over other combinations.

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