Forensic accountants examine and report on the financial aspects of legal claims and disputes and play an important role in many types of litigation. The specialism has grown in recent years and there is a choice of firms for solicitors and others seeking financial input on claims and disputes.
We list below various issues which could be considered in deciding whether a forensic accountant is needed and subsequently in choosing a forensic accountant.
Consider whether the work needed is typically undertaken by forensic accountants, such as…
- Business valuations, including valuations of unlisted companies, needed in matrimonial disputes and disputes between shareholders
- The computation of loss of earnings and/or pension rights and loss of profits; loss of earnings and/or pension rights are relevant to personal injury and fatal accident cases and employment disputes, and loss of profits computations are relevant to commercial cases such as claims for uninsured losses as a result of accidents or negligence, and breach of warranty cases
- The analysis of an individual’s financial position in matrimonial disputes and of a business’s financial position, which may be needed in matrimonial and commercial disputes and in personal injury and fatal accident cases
- The detailed analysis of documentation, particularly bank statements and other accounting records such as invoices, which is often necessary in cases involving financial crime or the proceeds of crime and also in commercial disputes
General qualities a forensic accountant needs include…
- Analytical skills – the ability to dissect financial information and to identify trends and patterns
- An enquiring mind – particularly in relation to the availability and relevance of information
- The ability to put financial information into the context of economic and market conditions
- The ability to focus quickly on the most important and relevant financial aspects of the case
- The ability to review large volumes of information with attention to detail
- The ability to communicate his or her views on financial information to lawyers and others (e.g. juries) with clarity and authority
- The ability to see the strengths and weaknesses of the financial evidence and to anticipate the arguments the “other side” are likely to make
- The ability to work to tight deadlines
- Familiarity with relevant law and court procedures
Specific factors which may affect the choice of forensic accountant include…
- “Horses for courses”- forensic accountants may specialise in certain types of work such as matrimonial disputes, so it is important to choose an accountant with relevant expertise
- The ability of the accountant to provide an initial review of the case to establish the proposed approach, information requirements and cost parameters
- The extent to which the accountant acts on behalf of claimants or defendants and, if relevant, the accountant’s experience as a single joint expert
- Geographical location, to the extent to which it is anticipated that documents will need to be reviewed at the instructing solicitor’s offices or the client’s premises
- The expert’s experience of giving evidence in court
The choice of a forensic accountant may make a significant difference to the outcome of a case and it is therefore important that a specialist with the right attributes and level of expertise is selected. It may also be important in large cases for the forensic accountant to be a good “team player”, establishing good working relationships with instructing solicitors, Counsel and the other experts.
The information contained in our Newsletters is provided as general information only. It does not constitute professional advice and should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific advice relevant to particular circumstances. In addition, since the Newsletters were published in recent years, the information contained in them may not be applicable at the current time.