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Why Must a Forensic Accountant Have Interpersonal Communication Skills?

by Kristine Tucker, studioD

Forensic accountants often work for government agencies, such as the FBI, and help prosecutors collect evidence for financial crimes. Strong interpersonal skills help forensic accountants interact with witnesses, senior executives, financial staff and administrative workers to collect data to support their cases. Effective communication skills enable them to discuss sensitive topics without soliciting combative or confrontational responses.

Search Comes Before Seizure

Evidence of financial criminal activity is often found on computers, in bank account records and in financial reports, so forensic accountants must visit businesses and personal residences to obtain electronic and hard copy files. Some forensic accountants prepare search warrants and affidavits so there are no legal barriers when they search and seize financial records. Interpersonal communication skills, such as concisely defining goals, giving directives to suspects and relaying significant data to other law enforcement agencies, can make gathering evidence a more efficient and productive process.

Watch Out for Weasels

Forensic accountants are not the primary investigators on most cases, but they often assist detectives and case agents when they interview suspects and witnesses. Because forensic accountants have both legal expertise and accounting skills, they often know what questions to ask and what data to collect as evidence for white-collar crimes. Forensic accountants often interview suspects about money laundering, illegal insurance claims, illegitimate investments, bankruptcy fraud and embezzlement, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. They must communicate clearly and effectively so suspects and witnesses can't weasel their way out of difficult conversations.

There's no "I" in Team

Strong communication skills help forensic accountants converse openly and honestly with prosecuting attorneys about financial crimes. According to the FBI, forensic accountants, FBI agents, and attorneys must work together to come up with powerful strategies for revealing evidence and supporting their findings in court. Some forensic accountants serve as expert witnesses and provide testimonies that reveal motives behind illegal behavior. For example, their testimonies might help a judge determine whether financial crimes were intentional or results of negligence and ignorance.

Overcoming Trials

Listening skills are an important part of a forensic accountant's communication techniques. They must listen carefully to the testimonies of witnesses and suspects so they can discuss relevant details and correct misstatements during cross-examination. According to WIPFLi CPAs and Consultants, one of the top accounting and business consulting firms in the U.S., forensic accountants must listen carefully during trials so they only answer relevant questions, without inadvertently volunteering information that might be critical to their cases. Accountants need strong communication skills so they can contradict opposing lawyers' points without appearing condescending, uninformed, disinterested or confrontational. In courtroom situations, listening and communication go hand in hand.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

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