From corporate fraud investigations to marital asset disputes to a myriad of other financial issues in between, legal proceedings often require an expert to analyze, investigate, and interpret complex financial data and information. A forensic accountant has the unique knowledge and skillset that will offer a legal matter crucial insight and analysis needed to resolve the dispute at hand. Some of the most notable tasks of a forensic accounting expert witness are things like gathering accounting evidence, conducting investigations into the alleged fraud, analyzing financial documents covered by litigation, and verifying proper adherence to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).
Utilizing their specialized knowledge, forensic accountants are able to contribute to the legal proceedings in a way that is fact-based and impactful. In doing so, forensic accounting is imperative when damages are difficult to prove or determine. A forensic accounting expert witness might be used at each stage of the litigation process. Depending upon the specific case, a forensic accountant might be called upon during:
- Pretrial: a forensic accountant can help the legal team with guidance during discovery and will often write a report at that stage regarding their findings, supporting facts and evidence, establishing causation, creating general strategy, and organization of the information supporting the case.
- Trial Support: while many cases end in settlement before trial, the approach must assume a trial is happening. Therefore, a forensic accountant expert witness will prepare for their testimony and gather any exhibits necessary.
Forensic accountant expert witnesses play a vital role in the litigation process, even in the event of a settlement. Expert witness engagements include any situation where a member of the firm renders a professional opinion in deposition or at trial. The expert’s opinion and work product are subject to discovery and are open to cross-examination.
Calling upon their experience and expertise, the forensic accountant is tasked with the responsibility to interpret accounting jargon, offer their investigative findings, and communicate with the court in a straightforward, honest manner. Attorneys lean heavily on forensic accounting to prove their cases using a knowledgebase outside of their own. As such, forensic accountant expert witnesses are extremely important to the legal proceedings and truly invaluable to the attorney who calls upon their expertise.