Recruitment Strategies: Do Ex-Cops Make Good Auditors?

Former FBI officers, criminal prosecutors, and even retired Canadian Mounties are working for accounting firms these days in investigating potential frauds. Some are very effective in their jobs; others may not work out.

The Christian Science Monitor recently interviewed ex-cops working for accounting firms to see what roles these ex-cops play and how well the recruiting strategy works. The Monitor found the roles can vary greatly, depending on the size of the firm and its clients. Stephen Max, a former special agent for the IRS's Criminal Investigation Division who is now with Bederson & Co., has been working with a client who invests in classic cars and thinks his business partner is not being straightforward. Another ex-cop is working for a firm hired by the Chilean government to look into kickback charges at a government-owned business.

From a recruiting perspective, firms find these ex-government employees bring exceptional qualifications from their years in law enforcement. For example, they are generally skilled at interview techniques, and many have had advanced training courses on how to spot information in seemingly innocuous remarks.

"We know how to develop a rapport and develop information," says ex-FBI agent Tom Hughes of Deloitte & Touche in Los Angeles. "We know how to listen to what is being told, when to change the subject, how to develop what the person wants to tell you. It's not that much different from questioning someone about a bank robbery."

Ex-cops may also have a heightened sense of skepticism, which is good. But some find it hard to adapt to the expectations of public accounting firms and their clients. A major drawback of hiring ex-law-enforcement officials, explains Mr. Hughes, is that some tend to have a relatively narrow focus. They look for the easiest case to make, with the biggest perpetrator, and they investigate that. Then, they're ready to move on to the next case.

-Rosemary Schlank

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