The main role of forensic accountants is to assist the courts, solicitors and clients understand the complex financial and accounting issues and presenting that information in a manner that all users can understand. An important addition to that is that the opinions or results are supported by evidence that will hold up under cross examination or scrutiny.
As forensic accountants, we help at a number of different levels in the litigation process including:
- Assisting in initial discovery – helping solicitors ask for the right information the first time that will provide them with the greatest level of information. As a note, ask for top level information first and then work down to source material. The level of information available will depend on the complexity of the business and the nature of the claim.
- Applying our commercial knowledge and expertise. Financial statements and income tax returns tell a story of a business. As forensic accountants, we can translate that story and apply it to the other information in the business. When the stories do not match, finding the evidence and clues that will support or disprove the claim for damages is one of the important roles of forensic accountants.
- Providing expert evidence both written and oral – As forensic accountants we are able to provide expert evidence in written form and where necessary support those opinions and calculations in cross examination. Extensive experience in cross examination is vital, as the strategies used by counsel varies considerably from case to case.
- Independence: The expert evidence rules mean that an expert must give an objective, unbiased opinion. This provides a stronger argument for acceptance by the Court. Where reports are normally prepared by internal ‘experts’ on behalf of the either party, there can often be questions concerning the independence of these ‘experts’ as they are typically long-term employees of the body concerned.