ACFE Global Fraud Conference – Mark Gardiner, Partner, CPA, CFE

During the last week in June, I attended the 30th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference in Austin, Texas. There were over 3,400 attendees from 60 different countries. They included individuals who worked in law enforcement, corporate governance, cyber security and risk management. There were only about 10-12 of us who were CPAs and worked in public accounting. 

There were 104 different breakout sessions. Topics included everything from the dark web fraud trade and artificial intelligence to the challenges faced by whistleblowers. At the working lunches each day the ACFE has various speakers. Some of the speakers I heard included Theresa Payton, former White House chief information officer and cybersecurity authority, and Tyler Shultz, who was the whistleblower in the Theranos scandal.

Theranos was a company started by Elizabeth Holmes. She was going to revolutionize the medical industry, claiming her company could test a single drop of blood for multiple diseases. Shultz worked for Theranos and blew the whistle on Holmes and Theranos for making misleading and false claims about the test.

The ACFE always has a convicted fraudster speak at the luncheon on the last day of the conference. This year’s speaker was Tom Hughes. When he began working for a bank as a teller at the age of 17, he started stealing cash after just a week. Over the next year and a half, he would take $20 from his drawer one week, and maybe $50 the next week. Hughes left the bank and joined a small company to do tax and write up work for their clients. It was there he began to steal money from the clients he worked on. When Hughes was eventually discovered, he did not get any jail time. Instead he received six years of house arrest and five years of probation. A condition of his probation was that he could not do financial work for clients. Out of the 71 clients he was responsible for, only two fired him after he alerted them that he had committed fraud.

This conference is an excellent source of knowledge on how to combat fraud and an opportunity to network with individuals from all over the world.