Meet Susan Brackney, CPA, ABV, CFF, MST, the focus of this installment of our Day In The Life Of A CPA blog series. She’s worked in forensic accounting for many years—and her job is totally fascinating!
Solving Puzzles, One Clue At A Time
A day in the life of a forensic accounting specialist is a day spent solving puzzles.
In a typical day, Susan will pore over piles and piles of paper, explore emails, and draw pictures to show what happened. She describes it as “putting together a jigsaw puzzle when you haven’t seen the picture.” Each piece of paper contains details–dates, times, amounts, accounts, etc.–that will eventually become part of the finished picture.
According to Susan, delegating review of this giant mass of information isn’t an option because you never know what you will find that rings a bell and becomes an important piece in the overall puzzle.
Crime & Intrigue
Susan’s initial exposure to forensic accounting was a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme involving thousands of investors holding spurious promissory notes theoretically secured by deeds of trust on real property.
Unwinding the scheme required identifying the individual real estate properties and the promissory notes secured by those properties and determining the amounts and dates of investments made as well as “interest” payments returned to the investors.
As you can imagine, the investors were extremely upset. So, to keep both the Trustee and the perpetuators safe, Susan quickly had to learn about bullet-proof vests, started checking for weapons at the creditors’ meetings, and carried a concealed weapon herself for the first six months of the case.
Her Most Dangerous Case (To Date)
This was by no means her most hazardous case. That honor goes to a case involving a gold mining claim where it was suspected that the investors were being mined instead of the claim itself. As the case proceeded into bankruptcy court, Susan was appointed Trustee for the company holding the claim. In the 24 hours before a major hearing in the case, one investor received an engraved bullet with his name on it in his mailbox, another had his house torched, and Susan woke up in the early morning to the smell of gasoline as a small river pouring out from a cut fuel line beneath her car.
Susan’s Advice For Working In Forensic Accounting
Download our free “A Day In The Life Of A CPA” ebook to find out what Susan thinks are the most important qualities for being a forensic accounting specialist. You’ll also see what her current day-to-today work is like and read great stories from other CPAs working as a CFO, an internal auditor, a tax manager, and more.