Lessons in spotting fraud
Dr. Maureen Mascha says, “I teach students how to steal,” to describe her class Fraud Examination. That may sound inconceivable but Mascha, assistant professor of accounting, says it is necessary in a world where financial scandals destroy companies and the lives of their employees. Mascha, who researches financial fraud, wants her accounting students to be aware of how fraud can happen so that they are better prepared to spot it when working as auditors.
“With the introduction of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, accountants, specifically auditors, are required to check for fraud,” she says. “There is criminal liability for auditors who miss or overlook fraud.”
Previously, typical college auditing classes taught students how to examine and verify financial statements. But financial scandals, like what occurred at Enron, demonstrated a need to examine how people commit fraud. Mascha’s class gives students opportunities to study proven examples of fraud. They learn how to identify fraud; how to spot minor abnormalities that may hide fraud; what to immediately suspect as fraud; and how people can steal from their companies in seemingly innocuous ways.
|Mascha began studying internal and external auditors to determine how well each group does at recognizing potential problems.
They also study Mascha’s research into auditing controls. With Dr. Sandra Shelton, a colleague from DePaul University in Chicago, Mascha began studying internal and external auditors to determine how well each group does at recognizing potential problems. Through the research they want to define who in a company can bypass specific security controls, known as general and application controls, and why. They hope their findings will reveal ways to strengthen the industry.
Because Marquette has been designated as a preferred institution by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the world’s largest accounting firm, it provides faculty such as Mascha with resources to continue their work. The company actively recruits on campus, both for student-interns and employees. Mascha is proud to report that Marquette accounting students have a 100 percent placement rate after graduation.
Mascha’s class is open to seniors pursuing graduate degrees and to graduate students. The first class attracted 12 students. This year’s class was capped at 25 students.