This is my comment about a recent column by Professor J. Edward Ketz that was posted on Accounting Today reproducing a speech he gave to accounting graduates. Note that these comments are my personal views and do not reflect the opinions of the publisher or my firm.

Great speech and I agree with everything Professor Ketz said except the part about the Big Four. Most three-year people with a Big Four firm are disgusted with public accounting because of the way they have been treated with overly long hours, repetitive work on large clients in esoteric areas, narrow industry exposure, and being pigeon-holed in a single technical area. Ninety percent of the accounting graduates hired by the Big Four leave the profession within three years. Their experience would not have any value to the CIA.

A better choice is a four- or five-year person who worked for a smaller firm and had a wide range of experience.

However, I feel the best choice for Professor Ketz’s CIA, FBI or other law enforcement agencies is to hire out of school and invest in training them in the techniques, methods and processes in which they require skills. These skills would not and could not have been acquired by a three year person in any size CPA firm.

A suggested plan for the CIA would be:

· To engage an experienced forensic accountant who would interview some of the senior-level CIA investigators, review their findings and exhibits presented at trials, and develop a training course where an operative work program and protocol can be developed;

· Establish a three-year work plan where entry-level people can acquire experience in those skills;

· Train the more experienced agents to teach and train the entry-level staff;

· Have younger staff work alongside the experienced people as part of that training;

· Encourage agents to obtain the CPA certificate and send them to at least 20 hours a year in forensic accounting CPE programs to assure adherence to professional standards for accountants. This will expose them to the latest in forensics as well as enable them to interact with other forensic professionals and soak up the camaraderie that exists at these meetings.

This plan is a long-term methodology to develop effective investigators.

An added suggestion is for every accounting firm that wants to hire someone to follow this method. It works.

CIA headquarters
CIA headquarters Dennis Brack/Bloomberg News
Edward Mendlowitz

Edward Mendlowitz

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is a partner at Top 100 Firm WithumSmith+Brown and the author of 24 books and a twice-a-week blog.