Fans of the 1976 political thriller, All the President’s Men, might remember Hal Holbrook’s Deep Throat character’s exhortation to Robert Redford to “follow the money,” in their Watergate investigation. Follow the money. More than a mere literary device designed to push the narrative along, the advice presented the investigative tool that proved instrumental in cracking the greatest political scandal of the 20th-century. “Following the money,” led directly to the Nixon White House, thus prompting the first presidential resignation in American history. In the three decades since, the field of forensic accounting has evolved into one of the most exciting areas within the accounting industry.
Financial Sleuth: The Forensic Accountant
The role of the forensic accountant is to untie the tangled web of finances that often masks an accurate appraisal of a person or organization’s true financial status. When their efforts look towards discovering the community assets of an estranged couple on the verge of a contentious divorce, these financial sleuthing efforts are termed matrimonial forensic accounting. Whether motivated by avarice, greed, vengeance, or spite, untangling the community assets of a failing marriage can be extremely difficult, so divorce litigation teams are routinely including the services of the forensic accountant on their side in the search for all available assets.
Forensic accounting is on the front-lines of solving complex crimes, and for those with a desire to track down illegal or hidden assets, the finely honed accounting skills of a forensic accountant might prove more effective than a badge and a gun of the traditional detective. From governmental forensic accountants ferreting out the corporate malfeasance of Enron executives, to high stakes divorce litigation like the Oklahoma divorce proceedings of Harold Hamm and his estranged spouse, Ms. Sue Ann Arnall, in which billions of dollars of potential marital assets are at stake.
The Rich Field of Matrimonial Accounting
As anyone who has ever been embroiled in an amicable divorce can attest, there are always complications. Factoring in the complications associated with a contentious marital uncoupling however, and that is when the feathers really start to fly.
According to the United States Census Bureau, approximately 90% of the population will marry at some point in their lives, and of those hopeful, romantic unions, roughly half will result in dissolution of the bonds of marriage within about eight years. Eight years. While that length of time might fall far short of the fairy tale notions harbored on their wedding day, it is still along time when it comes to entwining the financial lives of the two parties. Forensic accountants are experts at separating those two spheres into two equitable portions that are designed to keep the unhappy couple out of the courthouse.
The Exciting Frontier of Forensic Accounting
For those with an instinct for solving mysteries, a career in forensic accounting places them in a position to work on a daily basis unraveling the financial mysteries, which have been clouded by shady book keeping methods. Using advanced forensic accounting methods, the forensic accountant does indeed “follow the money” to ferret out even the most hidden asset whether it is being hidden from defrauded investors, irate spouses, or governmental investigators.