Amazon Workers Reject Unionization in Alabama

Posted by Arianna Weling.

Last Friday on April 9th, it was revealed that the Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama rejected the unionization bid. Alabama is currently one of twenty-seven “right-to-work” states in which wokers are not legally required to pay dues to the unions that represent them. The current case had been an ongoing battle for months and ultimately led to almost a 2-1 result of rejecting the union proposal. Of the 3,117 votes casted, about 1,800 warehouse voters rejected the union proposal, where as only about 730 workers voted in favor of it, as per the National Labor Relations Board. Amazon, which is currently one of the largest private employers in the United States has managed to avoid enforcements of unions for over two decades.”The vote Friday, in which the company won over workers at its year-old Bessemer, Ala., warehouse by more than a 2-to-1 margin, was a massive blow for labor organizers who saw the facility — and Amazon broadly — as ripe for organizing,” (Greene, De Vynck 2021). Such an avoidance of the unionization will certainly grant Amazon the power and flexibility or cut workers when they please if there is any contention.

The aftermath of this result is certainly one that setbacks politicians, such as Senator Bernie Sanders and President Biden who advocated for unionization. Since then, there have been videos surfacing in which Sanders stated, “The history of struggle is that you don’t always win the first time out…you may have to come back and do it again,” (Greene, De Vynck 2021). As for the President of AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, he assured that he and his people are not going anywhere and the fight will continue. The union that actively represented the Bessemer, Alabama workers, also known as the Retail Warehouse and Department Store Union has accused Amazon of using scare tactics to intimidate workers. Such intimidation may have swayed voters and influenced the result. Therefore, the union strives to challenge this results in attempts to overturn them and force unionization.

Amazon, however, refuted such claims as Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener stated: “These fabrications are tiresome but expected…you’re going to hear a lot of untruths from the union now because they have to explain the lopsided result and their answer can’t be Amazon pays more than $15 an hour, offers health care from day one, up to 20 weeks of parental leave, and a safe, clean work environment in state-of-the-art fulfillment centers,” (Greene, De Vynck 2021). In the months long battle, Amazon even set up an anti-union website in order to discourage workers. The website, “DoItWithoutDues,” emphasized the cons of unionization. Not only did they establish a website to discourage unionization, but also head mandatory meetings for workers called “captive-audience sessions” to advocate for anti-unionization.

Since the decision, other workers at other Amazon facilities have began considering and acting on organizing their own efforts for unionization. More than 1,000 workers have contact the Retail Warehouse and Department Store Union in attempts to launch campaigns at their own Amazon facilities (Greene, De Vynck 2021). Given the RWDSU is planning to contest the results and argues that the voters were influenced, the decision may be overturned and legal challenges may arise.

Personally, I see the pros and cons of unionization, therefore, the decision is difficult. Of course, unionization will ensure that employees receive higher pay and benefits; however, issues, such as lack of individuality and difficulty to fire workers may be discouraging. From an outsider’s point-of-view, it seems that unionization will be incredibly beneficial. Given Amazon rarely (if ever) ranks within the top twenty-five companies with happiest workers, it seems that they could use some improvements. I think Amazon’s choice to show workers the downfalls of unions and establishing that website may have been misleading. Because of that, I feel that another vote should be considered, seeing that since Amazon had some influence in the decision publically, privately, it may had been more as well.

Arianna is majoring in marketing and English at Seton Hall University, Class of 2023.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/04/09/amazon-union-vote-bessemer/

Supreme Court Sides with Google in Copyright Battle After the Tech Giant’s Decade Long Battle Against Oracle

Posted by Jessica Moran.

On Monday, April 5th, 2021, the Supreme Court, in a 6-2 opinion, ruled in favor of Alphabet Inc.’s Google in a decade-long, eight-billion-dollar copyright dispute with Oracle America Inc. The dispute arose over Google’s usage of parts of Oracle’s Java Advanced Programming Interface (API) code in their Android operating system (OS) on more than two billion Google devices worldwide. Google’s Android OS was released following Google’s creation of millions of lines of computer code, with 11,330 of those lines coming from Oracle’s Java platform. The building of this computer code using some of Oracle’s API code came into question—Oracle believed that Google illegally copied the over 11,000 lines of its Java API code to develop their Android OS. In contrast, Google thought that copying some of the Java API code was “fair use” under copyright law. “Fair use” is any copying of copyrighted material that can be done without permission from the owner because it is done for a “limited” and “transformative” purpose. Thus, the question of the case became the following: Did Google’s copying of the code constitute fair use, or did it violate the copyright law?

Google argued that its behavior is common practice in the industry and allows for technical progress. Furthermore, Google stood firm in its belief that copyright laws do not protect functional, noncreative computer code. In this case, Google believed the lines of the Java API that they copied were purely functional and could not be written any other way. On the other hand, Oracle said that Google’s actions were complete plagiarism—In a statement to the press, Oracle said, “The Google platform just got bigger and market power greater…They stole Java and spent a decade litigating as only a monopolist can. This behavior is exactly why regulatory authorities…are examining Google’s business practices” (Mickle). Decisively ruling in favor of Google, the Supreme Court held that the copying constituted fair use and did not violate the copyright law since the amount of code was relatively small and programmers at Google simply used the language as “building blocks” to develop new applications.

Thus, Google’s use of that code was “fair use” as a matter of law, and Oracle cannot claim copyright because, according to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, “…Google reimplemented a user interface, taking only what was needed to allow users to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program” (Kruzel, and Rodrigo). Breyer’s opinion was joined by Justices Roberts, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, but Justices Thomas and Alito dissented. Thomas and Alito felt that “Oracle’s code…is copyrightable, and Google’s use of that copyrighted code was anything but fair” and believed that “Google decimated Oracle’s market and created a mobile operating system…earning tens of billions of dollars every year” (Mickle). Nevertheless, Google and other tech giants like IBM and Microsoft celebrated the ruling. Google’s Chief Legal Officer, Kent Walker, found the decision to be a victory for “consumers, interoperability, and computer science” (Kruzel, and Rodrigo).

While there is opposition to this decision, the Supreme Court remains confident in its decision, with Justice Breyer stating that this decision does not overturn earlier cases involving fair use, like those relating to ‘knockoff’ products, journalistic writings, parodies, and more. Instead, the Supreme Court’s decision is based, in part, on concern that a ruling against Google would set back future software development and promote costly duplication of code. In other words, ruling in favor of Oracle might have stifled future software development and innovation. The Supreme Court did question Google’s right to copy some of the code, and Google itself did not dispute the fact that its software engineers used over 11,000 lines of the Java software code, but ultimately, the inclusion of such code into their Android OS constituted “fair use” of copyrighted material. Furthermore, the court found that “Google’s copying amounted to just 0.4% of the 2.86 million lines of Java API computer code” (Mickle). Despite the seemingly unfavorable admission to copying the code, Google does provide the Android OS to smartphone manufacturers for free and allows it to be used under an open-source license.

As of this case, the Supreme Court is not yet willing to answer the following legal issue: whether API code is eligible for copyright protection. Given the broad nature of such a question and the rapidly changing business technology environment, the Supreme Court did not wish to answer anything beyond the dispute at hand. In this case, the Supreme Court felt that Google’s fair use argument was the stronger case being that fair use is designed to prevent copyrights from hindering new software and product development.

For more information, the case is Google LLC v. Oracle America Inc., 18-956.

Jessica is majoring in accounting and management at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2023.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/supreme-court-rules-for-google-in-multibillion-dollar-copyright-battle-with-oracle-11617632233

https://thehill.com/policy/technology/546449-supreme-court-sides-with-google-in-copyright-fight-against-oracle?rl=1

The Legal Effects of Vaccination Side Effects

Posted by Andrew Walde.

Vaccinations having been given out in increasing rates as more and more individuals are receiving theirs for COVID-19, however as with any vaccine, there are potential side effects that are harming some patients. Several of these individuals are seeking compensation for these effects as, “Twenty-one people have filed claims with the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program for adverse reactions to Covid-19 shots…” (Schlesinger). As people search for this compensation, there has been little acceptance to their claims and any compensation is expected to be limited.
While there are programs set up to deal with compensating those adversely affected by vaccinations, the one for COVID-19 is not covered by many as it is a new vaccine that has not been approved for the use on children yet even. This means that it is more difficult to make claims for compensation for being adversely affected by the vaccine. Furthermore, the one that does cover it, The Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program, “rarely pays, rejecting more than 90% of claims filed, according to HHS and FOIA records” (Schlesinger). This again demonstrates why it will be difficult for those seeking compensation will find it difficult.

I believe the reason for this difficulty has to do with the principle of double effect. As the vaccine is made with good intention and a good end, there may be negative unintended consequences. So while there are possible negative consequences, the overall intention of the vaccine is to provide benefit to the patient. Because of this I do not believe that companies should be sued or have to pay large compensations as they are attempting to aid the public through their good intentions. However, I also know that the companies making the vaccine should still be held accountable to make sure the vaccine works without major side effects the vast majority of the time. So that if in the future there is found to be side effects greatly impacting large groups of individuals, the company could then face legal action as their product caused substantial harm that could have been avoided through more thorough testing.

Andrew is a mathmetical finance major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2023.

China to Use Data Protection to Control Tech Giants

Posted by Arina Gumerova.

This article focuses on the fact that China wants to introduce a law that will protect personal data online because “globally, there has been a push toward more robust rules to protect consumer data and privacy as technology services continue to expand.” So at the moment, China is one of the main technology leaders in the world and is trying to compete with the United States. However, the data protection law could undermine many companies because they have to change their business model and it can cause slow down the development of the industry.

To date, this law has already been adopted in Europe and China is striving to do the same. The reason for this was that many Chinese users began to complain about Internet companies for misusing their personal information. Therefore, the law will now conduct more scrutiny and possible changes to the business models of the Chinese intranet giants.

Another problem is that “The Chinese data protection law contains a section on state agencies processing information.” That is, the state must adhere to the same rules as the company, but there is a lot of controversy about this. Government agents are some of the largest data processors in the country, but in some cases when people give their consent when collecting data, this may be contrary to police investigations by law enforcement. Therefore, this law will be difficult to pass because it has many different sides and it is difficult to please everyone so that no one is left on the sidelines.

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/12/china-data-protection-laws-aim-to-help-rein-in-countrys-tech-giants.html

Arina is a mathmatical finance major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University.

If I Had Spoken Up, It Would Have Been a Suicide Mission for Me and My Career: The Choices Women Make

Posted by Eden Dolezal

Megan Kelly was working for Fox news and I always watched her for so many years, I always thought her voice was always heard and pepole really understood what she had to say and what the points that needed to come across, it really happened. The article talks about how when Kelly was at Fox news she felt like she was being sextual harressed and people always told her to do that, but at the same time she believed it wasn’t right and ethical. Working in a workforce with males such as bosses, it is clear that saving her career would be very hard and that people would not believe her.

As stated in the article, it saids, she had more than many women in her might have done, but going to Ailes head to the owner or going to the general counsel would be a “suicide mission.” What this means is that she did not feel comfortable going over someones head and taking it a step farther because of what could happen if at any moment she did that. Another thing that would have happen is that people felt like she wouldnt be trusted and everyone really could feel like it wouldnt be worth it. Throughout her career it was really clear that she was very uncomfortable with her work force and that she didnt not like how she was being treated but the fact that she feels like she cant come forward because of what other things is really crazy.

“Why did she not speak out sooner?” people always ask, and when they ask that, it is really hard to say becausde everyone has a story, weather it comes out today or tomorrow, every vitcim needs to come out when their voice is ready to be heard and it is clear that everyone has a story, and for people to understand and accpet the story is a little different and Kelly should have the power to speak up when it is right and understand that whatever is going on in her situation that people are allowing herself and others to make sure that she is well aware that she is capable of doing whatever she puts her mind to.

Eden is a communications major at Seton Hall University, Class of 2022.

https://www.employmentlawbusinessguide.com/2016/11/if-i-had-spoken-up-it-would-have-been-a-suicide-mission-for-me-and-my-career-the-choices-women-make/

 

Nike Files Lawsuit Over Lil Nas X ‘Satan Shoes’ Claiming Trademark Infringement

Posted by Ariel Go. Jr.

Montero Lamar Hill, otherwise known by his stage name Lil Nas X, has been making a lot of news lately due to a new line of controversial sneakers. Lil Nas X recently posted a music video of his new song “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).” The video was full of religious imagery, particularly of Satan and hell, and portrays the singer as a fallen angel who gives a lap dance to the devil. Immediately after the release of the video, which was already controversial unto itself, Lil Nas X announced that he had collaborated with MSCHF, an art collective located in Brooklyn, New York. The Lil Nas X “Satan Shoes” are modified Nike Air Max 97s which features a pentagram, inverted cross, and the words “Luke 10:18”- a reference to a biblical passage that states, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” On March 29, the 666 produced pairs of Satan Shoes were released at a cost of $1,018 each, and they were sold out in under a minute.

This brought a whole new controversy which especially offended those who held religious beliefs. Many people instantly took to social media which sparked controversial debates regarding the sneakers and there were also calls to boycott Nike over the customized shoes. In addition, famous individuals, such as basketball player Nick Young and American football quarterback Trevor Lawrence, have expressed disapproval over these shoes. While the devilish aspects of the shoes have been enough to disturb some, much has been said about the human blood found in the soles. Daniel Greenberg, one of MSCHF’s founders, said in an email that six people on the MSCHF team actually gave blood to create the Satan Shoes. The ink that fills the air bubble in the sneaker has a drop of blood mixed with it. When ask about the method of collecting the blood, Greenberg replied that it was not done by medical professionals, but by the team themselves.

On the same day the Satan Shoes were released, Nike filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against MSCHF Product Studio Inc for trade infringement and dilution, false designation of origin, and unfair competition. Nike, the world’s largest manufacturer and supplier of athletic shoes, alleged that the “unauthorized Satan Shoes are likely to cause confusion and dilution and create an erroneous association between MSCHF’s products and Nike.” What Nike is trying to say here is that while they didn’t make the shoes, some consumers think Nike did. MCSCHF’s wrongful use of the Nike “swoosh” mark in connection with satanic imagery is likely to cause dilution by reducing the distinctiveness and fame of the Nike trademark. As a direct result of the wrongful acts committed by MSCHF, Nike has suffered and is like to suffer continuous damage to its goodwill, business reputation, and trademarks which cannot be compensated by money.

The trademark issue at play in this case is referred to as the First-Sale Doctrine. This permits individuals to buy a copyright item, such as a CD or sneaker, and resell it without the original creator’s explicit permission. In response to this, Nike’s lawyers state that the shoes were “materially altered.” This was done because the first-sale doctrine does not apply to a product that has been materially altered. The lawyers claim that the red ink and human blood in the sole as well as the satanic-themed designs were sufficient enough to be considered material alteration. In this case, the alterations to the Nike shoes likely influenced the public’s decision to purchase the shoes.

Nevertheless, on April 8, the legal battle between MSCHF and Nike came to a close as both parties agreed to settle the lawsuit. MSCHF had initially wanted to argue that its activities were licit under the First Amendment, which gives them the right to artistic expression. However, David Bernstein, the lawyer for MSCHF, stated that “having already achieved its artistic purpose, MSCHF recognized that settlement was the best way to allow it to put this lawsuit behind it so that it could dedicate its time to new artistic and expressive projects.” The terms of the settlement require that MSCHF issue a voluntary recall for the sneakers so that the footwear may be removed from market circulation. MSCHF also stated that they would provide a full refund at the original retail price, plus shipping costs, for those that wish to return the Satan Shoes. Lastly, according to the email sent to Satan shoe buyers, owners who do not wish to return the shoes and later experience “a product issue, defect, or health concern” should address the matter with MSCHF rather than Nike.

Ariel is an accounting major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2024.

Works Cited:

Madani, Doha. “Nike and MSCHF Reach Settlement in ‘Satan Shoes’ Trademark Lawsuit.”

NBC News, 11 Apr. 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/nike-mschf-reach-settlement-satan-shoes-trademark-lawsuit-n1263567

“Nike Sues Over ‘Satan Shoes’ With Human Blood, BBC News, 30 Mar. 2021,

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-56572245

Pietsch, Bryan. “Nike Sues Over Unauthorized ‘Satan Shoes’.” New York Times, 28 Mar. 2021: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/28/style/nike-satan-shoes-lil-Nas-x.html

Fraud Cases Up During COVID Era

Posted by Megan Kerrigan.

Today, the world is unpredictable and changing rapidly. We see a new president, a worldwide pandemic, a lack of jobs for Americans, and the changing of our everyday lives. With COVID-19, we see the world dealing with large business and financial disruption. Since the shutdown the government started pumping large sums of money into the global economy in the hope this will improve the financial issues families are having. With all these factors coming into play, we see that corruption and fraud are most likely to occur with people working from home and the lack of regularity. “Now, there is likewise understandable concern that the significant public health and economic impacts of the pandemic, including in connection with the substantial governmental expenditures, will further fuel white-collar offenses” (Debevoise). Individuals are struggling due to the pandemic with a lack of income and financial stability and that will promote white color crimes to take place. Americans will have a strong motive to support their families in a time like this. The intent to act on crimes will be stronger than ever.

We see most companies today having to work from home to slow the spread of the virus. Working from home is the only option for businesses and American to make money and survive. Due to the lack of communication in the office and lack of materials with everyone working from home, we will see certain types of white-collar crimes slow down. This is because of the lack of fast interaction between one another and response times. Enforcement agencies are prioritizing safety with individuals who are working remotely. People might think that the agencies are not being as strict with the current dilemma, but they are mistaken.

“Enforcement agencies in the United States and Europe have stated that their objective is vigorously to prosecute violations of anti-fraud and anti-corruption laws, particularly in the context and aftermath of COVID-19” (Debevoise). These agencies have a list of top priories to look at as well as known challenges they understand they will be facing. The top is fraud and corruption. The Organization for Economy Cooperation and Development said that this pandemic and the disruption in the economy will create an environment almost too easy for corruption to occur. The healthcare sector has a large opportunity for bribery and corruption. “The scope for potential corruption is wide-ranging, including in procurement, product development, and dissemination, as well as medical fraud. This is exacerbated by the urgency of securing medication, ventilators, and PPE amidst global scarcity concerns” (Debevoise). People are going to do whatever they possibly can to make sure they are safe, even if it breaks the law. Enforcement is taking action and have taken a proactive approach to these issues.

Another area where white-collar crimes are more than ever going to be circulating is the abuse in regulated financial markets. Due to the extreme market volatility with his pandemic we see a large increase in market abuse. Businesses are still required to meet standards despite the disruption with the pandemic, but agencies also understand they need to provide some relief by deferring reporting deadlines. This gives businesses time to get information together without penalties. SEC has not slowed down the cases and is still working on cases and prosecuting new ones but also delayed reporting requirements due to the CARES ACT terms.

COVID-19 has affected restaurants, gyms, hotels, family-owned businesses, auto industries, airlines, corporations, individuals, enforcement agencies, and many more. Everyone is still trying to adapt to the constant changes while keeping up with making sure illegal acts are not occurring. Enforcement agencies are continuing to investigate and prosecute white-collar crimes and misconduct because they know that economic and financial crime will increase in the wake of the pandemic. I personally feel that Americans need to be aware of this to try to defer any act of fraud or corruption that is motivated by a lot of individuals due to this pandemic.

Megan is a master’s in accounting student at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University.

https://www.debevoise.com/insights/publications/2020/05/white-collar-crime-and-covid-19-enforcement-in-a (Links to an external site.)

The Field of Forensic Accounting Will Continue to Grow


Posted by Lynne Thach.

Forensic accountants play a very important role in court. They provide litigation advisory services, investigative services, and essential support for lawyers and attorneys in many situations in court. The most important role is that forensic accountants are used as financial expert witnesses because of their technique, investigation, knowledge, and practice skills assisting in uncovering truth. They ultimately provide a credible analysis that may be relied upon in court. In this paper, I only emphasize the role of forensic accountants in litigation, especially in discovering financial fraud.

Financial fraud has been increasing and a substantial threat to the development of economies and society’s stability. The need for forensic accounting stretches into any situation where there is suspicion of fraud in an entity’s financial transactions. Forensic accountants are trained to look beyond the numbers and deal with the business reality of a situation. It is more than accounting and more than detective work; forensic accountants combine their accounting knowledge with investigative skills to search through companies’ financial reports and uncover the facts of the case. It is always better to hire forensic accountants sooner than later “to assist the attorney in translating complex financial issues into a more understandable manner” (by Mark S. Warshavsky).

Financial fraud can take many forms including Ponzi schemes, securities fraud, tax evasion, and embezzlement that are so-called “white-collar crimes”. Some early scandals included Enron, WorldCom, and The Bernie Madoff, and were reminders of the harm that can be done by fraud. These events prompt high demand for forensic accountants. They are responsible for recognizing red flags and ending fraud before they become big enough to significantly impact large numbers of people. Discovering fraud requires high forensic accounting skills including communication skills, analytical skills, investigation skills, accounting skills, legal knowledge skill, and practicing skills. The articles “The role of forensic accounting in discovering financial fraud’ states the result which showed that practicing forensic accounting is effective in discovering fraud.

The field of forensic accounting will continue to grow and develop as more accounting and technological changes are made as more frauds are discovered. Until then it is important that forensic accountants are well-educated and well-trained, because thousands of innocent people rely on them every day.

Lynne is a master’s in accounting student at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University.

(Links to an external site.)

https://www.gettrymarcus.com/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/TheForensicAccountantsRoleinLitigation.pdf

https://www.longdom.org/open-access/the-role-of-forensic-accounting-in-discovering-financial-fraud-2472-114X-1000176.pdf

The Forensic Accounting Profession Amid COVID

Posted by Jake Martin.

The year of 2020 is certainly not a typical year considering all the events that took place. One major topic that has the whole world worrying is COVID-19 which is considered a pandemic. Billions of people around the world have been negatively affected by this virus and unfortunately many have lost their lives. COVID-19 has certainly disrupted forensic accounting in many ways throughout the legal system along with the employees who work in the court system. Many of these employees are required to work remotely from home which does not normally happen. Having in-person meetings with clients and co-workers is an everyday task that has been altered by this virus. Working remotely definitely presents its own challenges such as communication issues and heavy usage of technology to stay connected. Forensic accountants must carry out face-to-face interviews, attend dispositions, and ultimately question suspected fraudsters. These tasks now have to be done through the computer because transmission of the virus is highly likely through close contact.

Adam Hanover, CPA/CFF, managing director of restructuring and dispute resolution at CohnReznick LLP, believes that virtual interviews are a poor substitute for the real thing. In the article, Hanover stated, “Zoom is just not the same, The lack of human contact is challenging. Sometimes, you need to be in the room with an individual to sense whether he or she is hiding something. A personal connection with someone who may or may not be an adversary is of utmost importance in our line of work.” I personally agree with Adam Hanover because while conducting interviews, body language and fluent communication are necessary for properly evaluating the person. Without these factors, poor judgement can be made which ultimately can change the final decision of the court case.

With the emergence of COVID-19, the fraud terrain has changed with new forms of fraud occurring at rates never seen before. One of the new forms of fraud relates to relief checks which was given by the government for individuals that couldn’t afford their normal expenses. Criminals have taken to selling bogus checks on the dark web, sometimes redepositing them three or four times. Before listing the check as fraudulent, the check must be confirmed and then immediately removed from access to the user. Due to COVID 19, many legal issues have been put on hold because in-person authentication is required and tasks through Zoom tremendously impact productivity. Overall, continually touching base with your legal team is especially important during this pandemic to ensure communication and transparency is continued. Forensic accountants remain optimistic about their circumstances and believe the virus will eventually become less of a factor while conducting their legal work.

Jake is a master’s in accounting major at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University, Class of 2021.

https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/newsletters/2020/oct/coronavirus-challenges-forensic-accounting.html

College Admission Scandals and Forensic Accounting

Posted by Jenny P. Velarde.

Financial crimes come in different colors. Most of us think of the words fraud and embezzlement when we think of these acts. Luckily, forensic accounting was created to conduct examinations utilizing accounting, auditing, and other analytical skills. This form of accounting is most suitable when investigating financial crimes. Forensic accountants are brought in when it is time to investigate a possible fraud and bring justice to those responsible. Many of us were all surprised to learn that a college cheating scam unfolded including well-known celebrities, such as Lori Loughlin, and Felicity Huffman.

In the case of the college admissions scam, which was given the name of “Operation Varsity Blues” by authorities, the FBI used their team of forensic accountants to help them indict 50 individuals. Operation Varsity Blues was the case where students fraudulently were admitted to U.S. colleges and universities through a combination of bribery, cheating on standardized tests, and bogus athletic credentials. None of the students or schools were charged in this case. The focus was on William Singer, who owned a college preparatory business called the Edge College & Career Network, also known as The Key. (Medina, Benner, and Taylor, 2019). It was found that William Singer used his nonprofit organization, Key Worldwide Foundation, to pay bribes to coaches that would help parents get their children admitted to those universities. It also helped them cheat on their standardized tests. The investigation discovered that parents paid Singer approximately $25 million from 2011 to February 2019. The Key was also used as the recipient of these bribes which allowed the parents not to pay any federal taxes on those funds.

Cases like this normally stem from a tip, or a whistleblower. According to an article on blanker.com (2020), Bloomberg reported that the whistleblower was someone by the name of Morrie Tobin. He was a financial executive who was already being investigated for securities fraud. He told the authorities that he had paid a bribe to a Yale University women’s soccer coach, which helped him get his daughter accepted. This would be expected for someone to provide information for them to get leniency. Fortunately, the intelligence Tobin provided to the authorities led to this famous scandal that was heard around the nation and in other countries.

Dr. Jennifer Stevens, an assistant professor of accountancy in the Ohio University School of Accountancy stated, “It played a huge role in the indictment, and the FBI has an entire forensic accounting team that does this. They’re not actually special agents. They work alongside special agents, but they have a division of forensic accountants that would have been working on a case like this” (Cohn, 2019). She speaks to how this team was able to trace these actions to those indicted, especially to William Singer who pleaded guilty to counts of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United Stated, and obstruction of justice. Most of the parents were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Our world without forensic accountants would allow these, and other financial crimes to take place. Luckily, we can use these experts in court and in investigations so justice can be served.

Jenny is masters of science in accounting student at Montclair State University, Feliciano School of Business, Class of 2023.

Work Cited

Medina, J., Benner, K., & Taylor, K. (2019, March 12). Actresses, Business Leaders and Other Wealthy Parents Charged in U.S. College Entry Fraud. Retrieved November 16, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/12/us/college-admissions-cheating-scandal.html (Links to an external site.)

Cohn, M. (2019, March 25). Forensic accounting helped uncover college admissions scheme. Retrieved November 16, 2020, from https://www.accountingtoday.com/news/forensic-accounting-helped-uncover-college-admissions-scheme (Links to an external site.)

Forensic Accounting Lessons From The College Admissions Scandal – San Antonio CPA: Forensic Investigative Accounting: Litigation Support. (2020, February 27). Retrieved November 16, 2020, from https://bankler.com/forensic-accounting-lessons-from-the-college-admissions-scandal/