William H. Beecken, C ’70, will be the 2017 Advent Semester Bryan Viewpoints Series Speaker. Beecken’s lecture, “Trust No One Who Touches Your Money: How Fraudsters Think” will be in Gailor Auditorium at 4:30 PM on Thursday, October 26. The lecture is open to the public and a reception in the foyer of the auditorium will follow.
Beecken, a Certified Fraud Examiner and Certified Public Accountant, is the director of fraud services for Assurance Forensic Accounting of Atlanta. He is a former investigator with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the federal agency that insures deposits in banks and oversees financial institutions. Beecken also served as senior forensic auditor for the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and as investigator at the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
During his career, Beecken has investigated cases involving check-kiting, arson-for-profit schemes and handgun racketeering. An expert in his field, he also teaches accounting in Atlanta and served as advisor to Georgia’s district attorney investigations covering a range of fraud topics.
In an interview, Beecken described how he has learned “the biggest problem [about detecting fraud] is its people you trust” who are likely to commit such crimes because they are in a position to abuse trust. At some point, he added, many cross the line and commit a fraud. “It’s in all of us… some sort of threshold in the need for money.” The perpetrator may initially plan to pay back purloined funds, but “it’s harder to pay it back” than it is to take cash or property.
The most well-known type of fraud against individuals is the infamous Ponzi scheme. Investors are promised above-average returns on their money and while early investors profit, those returns come from new investors, creating cycle of fraud that eventually collapses. Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme discovered in 2008 was the largest in US history and is estimated to have bilked individuals of at least $68 billion.
Individuals are not the only victims of financial fraud—small businesses, large multinationals, educational institutions and charities all fall prey to fraudsters regularly and may themselves engage in fraudulent behavior. A 2016 study of occupational fraud (committed by employees), estimated a typical organization lost 5 percent of revenues to occupational frauds. The study, conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, calculated that more than 23 percent of occupational frauds cost institutions $1 million or more.
Beecken indicates he expects a new wave of fraud to begin in the United States early next year as fraudsters use the personal information of more than 140 million individuals hacked from credit reporting firm Equifax. He predicts criminals using the information will file huge numbers of bogus claims for individual federal income tax refunds.
During his visit to Sewanee, Beecken will teach two classes and meet with students. Beecken’s elder brother, David, C ’68, is a former member of the University’s Board of Regents. His daughter, Colleen Beecken Rye, is a 1999 Sewanee graduate.
He and his son, Clark, co-authored “Fraud Examination Casebook with Documents: A Hands-On Approach” (Wiley, 2017).
The Bryan Viewpoints Speaker Series is a program of the Babson Center for Global Commerce, and is made possible by the generous support of Peggy and J. F. Bryan IV, C ’65. Beecken’s lecture is cosponsored by the departments of economics and philosophy.