5 ways to defend your family business against fraud

SEP 20, 2017 | BY BILL KOWALSKI Original Article

Trust and loyalty are desirable traits in family structures and in business; however, these traits can also leave a family business vulnerable.

In fact, family businesses are especially vulnerable to fraud, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ (ACFE) 2016 Global Fraud Study. The study found that businesses with fewer than 100 employees, which are in many cases family-owned, experience fraud at a rate of 28.8%, compared to the 19.8% experienced by those with more than 10,000 employees.

In a family business, trust and security often have an inverse relationship, meaning as trust increases in a business, the quality of internal controls and security is minimized. Business relationships — particularly among family members — can become strained when individuals believe they are owed more money or authority than they receive.

Personal financial pressure and emotional stress outside the business can also create tension within an organization. In worst-case scenarios, family members know there is little risk of exposure, and the perceived benefits of financial fraud outweigh these risks.

When family members are suspected of fraud within the business, they may not be held accountable due to the dynamic of family relationships. Family members are often more hesitant to report relatives to authorities, seeking to save the family member from jail time or the embarrassment that ensues.

Of course, smaller companies suffer more when fraudulent activity occurs. It’s more difficult to control the damage in a $5 million company than in a $250 million company. Misappropriated money often makes a greater impact, and the damage is experienced throughout the entire organization, affecting company culture. While a perpetrator in a large organization may be viewed as a singular “bad egg,” one in a small family business can be viewed as an institutional problem, or part of ongoing corruption to other employees.

According to the study, the median fraudulent loss of $150,000 suffered by small organizations was the same as the fraudulent loss experienced by large organizations. However, in a smaller company, that loss represents a significantly larger percentage of the company’s overall value. The number demonstrates the enhanced responsibility and trust often granted to individuals within a smaller company, leading perpetrators to believe they can take more with little risk of exposure.

Establishing effective controls

When personal and professional interests collide, the best approach to maintaining success and prosperity, from both familial and financial perspectives, is to implement and strictly enforce effective internal controls.

Five ways to enforce internal controls include:

1.  Segregate financial duties. Corruption involving check tampering, skimming, payroll and cash larceny schemes are twice as common in small organizations compared to larger organizations. One family member alone should never control the entire business’ finances. A simple solution is to create a three-person system of checks and balances: one person opens the bank statements, one prepares the bank reconciliations, and a third reviews all transactions and canceled checks.

2. Avoid signature stamps for checks. Family businesses, in particular, should consider requiring two signatures for any payment over a certain monetary amount.

3. Establish routine checks of payroll, supplier and vendor lists by multiple people within the company. Seventy-seven percent of occupational fraud is committed by employees working in accounting, operations, sales, executive management, customer service, purchasing or finance. The final payroll list should be reviewed by someone other than the person distributing checks and preparing the payroll. Similarly, the list of vendors should periodically be checked for unrecognized names.

4.  Give more employees an understanding of financial reporting. Even if employees claim to not be “numbers” people, it’s important that all staff are aware of financial reporting and are making an effort to understand the business’ finances. To increase transparency and provide another level of security, outsource your financial reporting and ensure someone is monitoring for fraud.

5. Focus on ensuring clear expectations are established for all employees. Every employee — including family members — should understand protocols in a business from expectations to pay rates and benefits. Clear expectations help avoid a power struggle and will clearly define who is double-checking various aspects of the business.

Trust is not an internal control

When confronting fraud in a family business, family loyalties or dynamics must be set aside. Even in small businesses, the most common way fraud is detected is through anonymous tips. Organizations with fraud hotlines are more likely to detect fraud compared to those without, at a rate of 47.3% compared to just 28.2%.

Appropriate punishments should be considered in advance and decided upon by multiple employees. Then, companies must follow through on those punishments. The ACFE study found that 40.7% of companies choose not to involve law enforcement due to either fear of bad publicity or the desire to remain loyal to the perpetrator. Decision makers should maintain a zero-tolerance policy for uncovered fraudsters, as an effective deterrent against copycats.

Another measure a business can take to mitigate the damaging effects of fraud is to work with their insurance provider to ensure their plan includes coverage and protection from employee dishonesty. Outside investigative fees are difficult to estimate due to the amount of layers that could be in play in any investigation.

A business should explore purchasing an insurance rider to cover costs of fraud investigations and potential legal fees, as well as the cost of financial loss incurred by the fraudulent activity. In any case, fraud prevention is a much more cost-effective safeguard than reactive damage control.

Fraud can happen anywhere

The more you believe it can’t happen in your business, the more susceptible you become to it. Most fraud perpetrators are first-time offenders and are well-standing employees in the company, resulting in greater access to controls and the belief they won’t get caught. Family businesses’ increased susceptibility is an essential reason to defend against fraud with multiple internal controls and external resources.

For more tips and resources on defending your business against fraud, contact your local law enforcement agency or financial adviser.

Bill Kowalski (info@Rehmann.com) is a principal and director of operations for Rehmann Corporate Investigative Services.

For your business insurance needs: Scott Lynch Agency

 

Win up to $10,000

Parents of teen drivers (or soon to be drivers) – Students who participate in Shift can earn points by watching, sharing and creating content. They can win up to $10,000 for their school and up to $1,500 for themselves in Erie Insurance’s Shift contest! Encourage your teen to take the safe driving pledge and compete in this year’s Shift contest. Visit jointheshift.org for more info. Or call us at (317) 420-2867

Things You Need to Know

 

FMCSA Mandate 12/18/2017

COUNTRYWIDE MANDATE
EFFECTIVE DEC. 18, 2017

The Federal Motor Carrier
Safety Administration (FMCSA)
will require many commercial
truckers to use an ELD effective
Dec. 18. Generally, truckers who
are currently required to keep
paper logs will need an ELD. This
would include most truckers
who operate across state lines.
Trucks that are older than model
year 2000 are exempt. For more
details on who is affected, visit
the FMCSA website.

WHAT THIS MEANS
FOR YOU
Overdrive reported that many
truckers are apprehensive
about switching to an ELD due
to additional costs and feeling
an invasion of privacy. There’s
widespread concern that a
significant number of drivers
may choose to get out of the
business, leading to a shortage
of tenured truck drivers and
changes in the market.

ALL ELDS ARE
NOT THE SAME
ELDs can be permanently
attached to a truck (cab device)
or can be a hand-held device
(smartphone). Both types make
tracking hours-of-service easier
and more accurate than paper
logs, and also provide vehicle
inspection reports and gauges
featuring key engine stats. All
ELDs must be certified with
the FMCSA to be compliant.
For additional information on
compliant ELDs, visit the
FMCSA website.

GET AN ELD PRIOR
TO THE MANDATE
We recommend truckers
get an ELD well in advance
of the deadline. Drivers
who switch early will
have time to adapt to the
learning curve and become
well-versed on how to use
it correctly when the
mandate takes effect.

Call Me at (317) 420-2867

For a limited time, I may be able to get qualified individuals free use of an ELD through my association with Progressive Insurance and their “SMARTHAUL” program. Or visit us on line at Scott Lynch Agency

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Boarding the Bus

by Erie Insurance on 

When the big yellow bus swings around the corner and nears the corner bus stop, it can be an exciting moment for both kids and parents. It marks the real start of the new school year.

Every year, U.S. school buses carry 25 million children to and from school, according to the American School Bus Council. School buses also boast an impressive safety record: School-bus involved crashes amount to less than one percent of all fatal crashes in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In fact, the NHTSA says that the bigger risk to student safety isn’t riding the bus, but getting on and off the bus. Before the exciting day arrives, do a quick review of bus safety tips with your children.

Be aware of cars. Aside from your kids heading off to school, morning is a busy time of day in the neighborhood, with grownups racing out the door to work. Teach kids to stay on the sidewalk and never cross an intersection until the car is stopped, they make eye contact with the driver and no other cars are approaching.

Safe waiting. While waiting for the bus, kids should stay at least three giant steps back from the curb. Because of the bus stop’s proximity to the street, discourage kids from horseplay and running games too close to the street.

Don’t cut it short. When young kids are running late, they can quickly forget the safety rules and run right into the street without looking for cars. Get kids into the habit of leaving five minutes before the bus’s scheduled arrival. In fact, during the first week of school, it doesn’t hurt to give them a bigger cushion of time because schedules can vary until the driver gets the route down.

Boarding safely: Everyone loves to grab their favorite seat. But it’s more important to board the bus safely. The safest way to do this is to stay back on the curb and not approach the bus until it comes to a complete halt and the door swings open.

For additional family/business safety, visit Scott Lynch Agency

Koonsman Family: Facing the Unexpected

Play Video Here://lifehappenspro.org/resources/embeded?userId=6955&videoId=5524776995001

To help your family with the unexpected, call us at (317) 420-2867 or visit us at Scott Lynch Agency

Being fit is important to me

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“As a race car driver and athlete, being fit is important to me.” – Danica Patrick. If it’s important to you visit Scott Lynch Agency

It’s less expensive than you think….

Life hint #31

Life insurance is less expensive than most people think. Visit Scott Lynch Agency for more information.

#lifehappens