In 2017 the major European ABB conglomerate admitted that an employee took advantage of serious management failings to disappear with $103 million of the firm’s cash. According to CNN business, ABB admitted that its managers had failed to maintain sufficient segregation of duties in the treasury unit of its subsidiary in South Korea, and did not provide enough oversight of local treasury activities, ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer and Chief Financial Officer Eric Elzvik said.
ABB also failed to keep the signature seals of the South Korean unit secure. As a result, the company became “bound to unauthorised financial contracts, resulting in undetected financial obligations,” they said in the report.
Organisations rely on the honesty and integrity of their employees, but employee fraud is, unfortunately, a fact – and can cost companies vast sums of money. Employee fraud is a reality across all sectors – no matter how credible a job applicant is and how stringent your hiring process is – your business is at risk.
Tips on Identifying and Preventing Employee Fraud
When you trust your employees, it is difficult to think the worst of them, even when there are red flags – circumstances or patterns that are out of the ordinary – alerting you to the contrary. If you have suspicions of employee fraud, it is recommended to hire a forensic accountant to help you detect fraud, understand your circumstances, and put together evidence to target and confront the employee without tipping them off.
The good news is that you can plan and train your team to prevent this from taking place; the best thing you can do for your business is to learn how to recognise the warning signs of employee fraud, and have robust procedures in place to minimise the risks and opportunities for fraud. Employee fraud covers a wide range of fraudulent activities in the workplace and can vary in seriousness. We take a look at some of the common types of employee fraud in this article and what you can do to minimise employee fraud in your organisation.
Embezzlement involves an employee who transfers company funds into their bank account, for example by deliberately writing cheques in the employees’ name, or diverting company assets without authorisation, e.g. customers unknowingly pay into an employee-controlled bank account, not the business’. This is serious fraudulent behaviour, but employees usually get away with it without raising any suspicion by creating nonexistent suppliers and fake employees or using counterfeit credit notes to hide/disguise misappropriated monies.
To spot this type of financial fraud, scour through the bank statements and financial records of your organisation and check for irregular activities or patterns of unusual and unauthorised transactions. Another sign of embezzlement is when an employee begins to enjoy a lavish lifestyle that is obviously beyond their means, e.g. holidays, cars, clothes/jewellery.
If you suspect an employee or director might be embezzling funds from within your company, it is essential to be discreet in your employee fraud investigation, to prevent the employee from covering their tracks and disposing of substantial evidence.
Other Common Types of Employee Fraud
- Commission fraud – inflating sales figures to gain a more significant commission than deserved.
- Petty fraud – for example, embellishing an expense claim or taking office supplies.
- Money laundering – hiding the origin of illegally obtained money and washing it through your business.
- Insider Trading – making a profit by using valuable information that is unavailable to the public to their advantage, for example, confidential information that could impact the prices of shares, securities, goods/commodities.
- Manipulation of accounts – false information on sales, purchases or stock can be used to perpetrate fraud for personal financial gain, e.g. overstated trading profits to receive cash/share bonuses, or get a promotion, creating false trading accounts or stock/fixed asset write-offs to obtain goods.
What can you do (as an employer) to minimise employee fraud?
Implement robust management procedures and employee background screening – these measures will ensure staff are adequately investigated and monitored, and consider the possibilities for collusion between employees – including conflict of interest. Paying attention to only the procedures within your accounts department is not sufficient. The same procedures can help you across your operations, including sales and procurement.
Minimise the chances of employee fraud with the following procedures:
- Separation of employee responsibilities such as placing orders, recording invoices and collecting debts.
- Requiring purchase or payment authorisation by more than one person.
- Compare actual to budgeted expenditure for unexpected patterns.
- Examine bank reconciliations thoroughly.
- Scrutinise cancelled cheques and cheques made out to employees or unusual vendors.
- Review supplier invoices for significant amounts, pricing or volumes.
- Verify credit notes and write-offs with receiving records.
- Install and monitor CCTV to deter theft of stock or equipment.
An American criminologist, Donald R Cressey, devised a theory which involved three aspects that trigger fraud. Understanding these triggers will help you prevent fraud:
- Opportunity – the lack of internal controls or reporting structure/oversight increase the chance of fraud.
- Rationalisation – the fraudster will rationalise the continued deception, which increases slowly perhaps over a few years becoming an entitlement, i.e. I deserve this. This offers the chance to stop some employee fraud early if robust detection procedures are in place.
- Pressure – overwhelming pressure, be it business factors such as company targets to meet, or personal pressures, such as gambling or financial problems.
Implement Pre-employment and Post-employment employee screening now!
Preventing financial loss is crucial for your business’s survival and expansion, which is why it’s essential to know and understand its obvious signs. Use the list above as a guide to protecting your organisation.
To detect employee fraud professionally and thoroughly, it is recommended you seek the expertise of a skilled employee fraud accountant as early as possible. They can help you investigate your employees, by reviewing your bank statements and financial documents, and advise you whether an employee is committing fraud, and to what extent. A forensic accountant’s report will also give you the evidence you need to take the necessary action against your employee and act as a deterrent to others.
For a free and confidential chat to discuss how we can help your business, contact us.