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FBI Accountant Offers MBA Students Glimpse into Forensic Accounting

March 17, 2021

This semester, a class of MBA students had the opportunity to meet virtually with an FBI accountant to learn first-hand what it takes to work as a forensic accountant for the government bureau. Thanks to Zoom, the group met with FBI Forensic Accountant Katharine Fehr, who outlined her job duties and discussed the qualifications and training necessary in her role.

The course, taught by Erica Sysol, visiting assistant professor of practice, is designed for rising and current MBA students to learn about the field of forensic accounting and what it takes to detect fraud.

“Forensic accountants need to understand investigative techniques, be skilled in analyzing financial data, and be expert storytellers,” said Sysol.

In class, students use case studies to help become familiar with identifying the different types of fraud, and translating “what happened” into how they can prevent such a fraud from occurring again, or detecting if it does.

During her talk, Fehr, who is based in Chicago, Illinois, shared details surrounding a case where her forensic accounting skills helped to secure a guilty conviction against a criminal.

The culmination of the course is a final paper, where students not only analyze the storytelling components of a case, but they also must prepare a graphic that could be presented in court, to effectively educate and persuade a jury. In Fehr’s presentation, she showed the class the exhibits she had prepared to help ensure that the jury fully understood the timeline of the alleged crime and how the fact pattern aligned with the legal elements of fraud. The information that she provided over the course of a three-day trial contributed to the government’s success of a guilty verdict from the jury.

Joe Pearce, a senior accounting major planning to pursue the MBA accounting program next fall, said Fehr offered an illuminating glance of what a career in forensic accounting looks like.

“I thought that the presentation mirrored what Fisher is all about and why they are known for their accounting program,” he said. “Having guest speakers like Katharine shows us what the workforce is like and the different opportunities there are in accounting.”

This article was written by Elizabeth Izydorczak, an undergraduate student majoring in accounting in the School of Business.