Book Review: Essentials of Corporate Fraud

I have many great things to say about Tracy Coenen, who is a blogger, author, and above all, a forensic accountant. I love her blog and I find her to be witty and intelligent. As a short seller I am also something of a fraud connoisseur, so I appreciate what she does. I eagerly anticipated her first book, Essentials of Corporate Fraud. She was kind enough to let me review before it was published, for which I thank her.

Here is the synopsis of the book from the publisher:

The book guides executives, managers, attorneys, and auditors through the basics of corporate fraud. In order to effectively fight fraud, it is important to understand who commits fraud, why they do it, how they do it, and how it affects the company as a whole.

Essentials of Corporate Fraud is more than a primer on fraud detection and prevention. It is a real-world look at how fraud occurs from an expert who has investigated hundreds of internal frauds, including embezzlement, financial statement fraud, investment fraud, bribery, and corruption. Tracy’s broad experience ranging from law enforcement to traditional auditing and finally to forensic accounting and fraud investigations brings a unique perspective to this publication.

To describe my overall impression of the book I find that I must resort to analogies. The book is like Michael Jordan scoring 18 points or like me only making a 20% return on a stock I have sold short. It is good, and a worthy read, but it is not great. I had expected better. However, I did find the book to be a worthy primer on fraud. There are of course a couple reasons that the book did not live up to my expectations, neither really Tracy’s fault: the book appears to be geared towards management types and it is an introductory book.

While being president of a small company, I am decidedly not a management-type; in fact, I would say that my IQ is about 2 standard deviations higher than the IQ of most managers (or at least people who read management books). The other problem is that this book is an introductory book. To someone who deals with messing up financial statements on a weekly basis (as bookkeeper of my company) and analyzing them on a daily basis (as a short seller), I am already familiar with many ways to defraud.

Despite not being wowed by the book, I found it to be a solid introduction to fraud. It was easily readable, not repetitive (unlike most books geared towards management), and it got me thinking. This book made me reconsider certain ways that my small company operated. Since reading it I have made changes to reduce the risk of fraud. For a book such as this, the best compliment is to say that it was useful, and this book was a useful read for me.

While this book would be useful to many, it is decidedly not useful (nor does it pretend to be) to investors who only care about financial statement fraud. If you are a CPA, manager, or business owner who is not an experienced fraud fighter, this seems to be a good place to start, so you should buy the book.

Whether or not you buy the book I definitely suggest reading Tracy Coenen’s Fraud Files Blog.

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