Conducting Interviews for Forensic Accountants

When studying to become a forensic accountant, it’s important you know the basic steps of conducting interviews during forensic investigations.

Conducting Interviews for Forensic Accountants

Forensic accountants, at one point or another in their careers, will have to conduct interviews with a suspect or others who are relevant to an investigation. It’s important for forensic accountants to know legal requirements and restrictions of conducting investigations as well as different interview methods and which are the standards. That’s why we created the Conducting Interviews course. In this course, we talk about many types of investigations and various legal considerations for conducting them. In this blog, I’ve outlined four of the most widely used methods for conducting interviews, be sure to sign up for class to learn more!

Who should take this course?
·       CPAs

·       CMAs

·       CFEs

·       CIAs

·       CFFs

·       MAFFs

·       External auditors

·       Internal auditors

·       Forensic accounts

·       Law enforcement personnel

There is so much that goes into conducting interviews. From knowing when you need consent to record an interview, to planning an interview, what to do when an interviewee requests an attorney, to how to bring criminal charges to a suspect. This is only some of what is covered in our Conducting Interviews course. In this blog, we’ll go over four of the six interview methods we cover in the course:

  • The REID Method
  • The PEACE Method
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Kinesic Interviewing

Let’s get started with the method most widely used by United States law enforcement agencies, the REID method.

The REID Method

Conducting Interviews REID Method

 The REID method, trademarked by John E. Reid and Associates, Inc., while the most widely used by United States law enforcement today faces more and more scrutiny. Let’s look at some of the method’s criticisms before looking at the method objectively. A summary of the criticism comes from Shane Sturman, the Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates’ president and CEO just last year when he said,

“Confrontation is not an effective way of getting truthful information… More and more of our law enforcement clients have asked us to remove it from their training based on all the academic research showing other interrogation styles to be much less risky.”

Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates is a police consulting firm that has worked with a majority of U.S. police departments and has trained hundreds-of-thousands of cops. They no longer teach the REID method. Or, as Connecticut’s General Assembly puts it,

“…the Reid Technique is premised on certain assumptions about human behavior that are not supported by empirical evidence, and that the technique may lead to false confessions.”

Of course, John E. Reid and Associates, Inc. rejects this criticism, claiming that false confessions arise when interrogators apply inappropriate methods that John E. Reid and Associates, Inc. does not endorse. That being said, let’s look at the technique:

The REID model consists of five steps:

  1. Factual analysis
  2. Direct confrontation
  3. Behavioral analysis
  4. Lead suspect to admission of guilt
  5. Document the confession

As you can probably infer, steps two and four are the steps that garner the bulk of the criticism of the REID model.

The PEACE Method

Conducting Interviews PEACE Method

The PEACE method is the most widely used by law enforcement in the United Kingdom and is regarded among the “lower risk” interrogation methods Shane Sturman was referring to (see quote above). With the PEACE method, interviewers cannot deceive suspects during interviews, cannot interrupt the suspect’s story before presenting inconsistencies, and champions the best-practice of having a policy to have all interviews under observation. As you can see, the PEACE method addresses many of the ethical questions the REID method opens.

You may have gathered by the consistent capitalizations that PEACE is an acronym. Good observation! So, what does PEACE stand for?

  1. Planning and preparation
  2. Engage and explain
  3. Account clarification and challenge
  4. Closure, and
  5. Evaluation

This method is more time consuming, but it’s less confrontational so there is less risk of coercing a suspect to give a confession. A study by Colin Clarke and Dr. Rebecca Milne evaluated the effectiveness of the PEACE method and gave the following three suggestions to enhance its efficacy in 2001:

  1. “Interview plans should become a requirement for all interviews,
  2. Refresher training should concentrate on obtaining and testing an interviewee’s account, and
  3. The aide memoir for interviewing suspects be updated to include an appropriate closure.”

Motivational Interviewing

Conducting Interviews Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a psychological approach to interviewing that is starting to gain traction with law enforcement agencies. It’s often used with patients resistant to opening up to psychiatrists or psychologists, so it’s a model based on trust. Here are the five steps of a motivational interview:

  1. Express empathy
  2. Develop discrepancies
  3. Roll with resistance
  4. Challenge the rationalization, and
  5. Support self-efficacy

This is a more informal interview style. Remember, those who commit fraud often don’t perceive their actions as “wrong”. This is why developing discrepancies, rolling with resistance, then challenging the rationalization can be a useful means of garnering a confession from fraud suspects.

Kinesic Interviewing

The Kinesic interview has one defining feature that sets it apart from all other methods: it’s focused on assessing the truth in the interviewee’s statements rather than trying to elicit a confession. It uses techniques to interpret subject’s truthfulness by evaluating verbal and non-verbal cues. It can be a useful method to use with witnesses, since you are not necessarily trying to get a confession. It’s also often used in phone interviews.

This has been a taste of conducting interviews for forensic accountants. To go more in-depth with our resident expert Bob K Minniti’s additional insights, check out the Conducting Interviews course on AccountingED.com!

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About Dr.Bob

Dr. Minniti is the President and Owner of Minniti CPA, LLC. Dr. Minniti is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Forensic Accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, Certified Valuation Analyst, Certified in Financial Forensics, Master Analyst in Financial Forensics, Chartered Global Management Accountant, and is a licensed private investigator in the state of Arizona. Dr. Minniti received his doctoral degree in business administration from Walden University, received his MBA degree and Graduate Certificate in Accounting from DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management, and received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree from the University of Phoenix. Dr. Minniti teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in accounting, fraud examination, fraud criminology, ethics, forensic accounting, external audit, and internal audit, at DeVry University, Grand Canyon University, Northwestern University, and the University of Phoenix. He designed graduate and undergraduate courses for Grand Canyon University, Northwestern University, and Anthem College. He is a writer and public speaker. He has experience in forensic accounting, fraud examinations, financial audits, internal audits, compliance audits, real estate valuations, business valuations, internal control development, business continuation planning, risk management, financial forecasting, and Sarbanes-Oxley compliance work. Dr. Minniti is an instructor teaching continuing professional education classes for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Compliance Online, CPE Link. AccountingEd, Global Compliance Panel, Clear Law Institute and various state CPA Societies.

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