Keynote Speaker: Allan Dodds Frank

Allan Dodds Frank addresses attendees during Monday's Opening Session.

Allan Dodds Frank addresses attendees during Monday's Opening Session.

By Dick Carozza, CFE, Editor in Chief, Fraud Magazine 

“While … [ACFE] members may not exactly be soul brothers and sisters of investigative reporters, we are at least first and second cousins,” said Allan Dodds Frank, one of the nation’s top business investigative correspondents, during the opening Monday session. “Over the years, I have been lucky enough to meet and work with many fraud investigators, and I can safely say we share some attributes, perhaps most notably that making money is far from our only motivation.”

Frank, a contributor to The Daily Beast and a special correspondent for Newsweek, compared the symbiotic relationship among fraud examiners and investigators of all stripes with in-the-trenches reporters and regaled the record 2,600 attendees with colorful war stories. The ACFE also presented Frank with The Guardian Award, given annually to a journalist whose determination, perseverance and commitment to the truth has contributed significantly to the fight against fraud.

While reporting for Bloomberg, he led coverage of Bernard Madoff, the AIG collapse and court cases against Dennis Kozlowski, Martha Stewart and others.

He’s working on a book about the world’s greatest white-collar criminals. He also is spearheading the creation of a worldwide database for journalists by the Overseas Press Club of America that’s being funded by a Ford Foundation grant. 

“Most reporters, and, I suspect, most people who become fraud investigators, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, forensic examiners or compliance officers subscribe to the notion that justice is important. We need fair play and honest transparent behavior to protect individuals and society. We need equal enforcement of the laws,” Frank said.

“Investigative reporters approach life with a peculiar combination of insatiable curiosity and dispassionate yet ingenious methods of finding and examining facts,” he added.

“We use our wits to figure out how to attack the same problem from many different angles.  … We remember little details and seemingly trivial facts from earlier cases for a long time. 

“Not driven by money, we nourish our ability to sustain indignation and hot pursuit for long periods,” Frank said. Good reporters are almost always extraordinarily persistent, he said.  “We are dedicated to unearthing the truth or uncovering a close approximation. And since we love telling a good yarn, fraudsters rarely disappoint us!

“Unlike many of you, however, I do not operate with the power of a subpoena, or a court order, or the backing of a CEO or a board of directors authorizing an investigation,” Frank said.

“Maybe together we can create a new model about how fraud examiners can work with responsible professional journalists.  … Maybe a few of us can get together and do a new reality TV series about fraudsters. Why should the guys noodling for catfish and trapping alligators with their bare hands have all the fun?

“Since we are all students of human behavior, my wish is that you can help me answer this question: ‘Who are the crooks today?’ ”

Frank said he is looking forward to meeting many of the attendees to hear “suggestions about who my next targets of inquiry should be. Of course, I also would be happy getting tired — moving my lips — reading any documents you might want to send my way!”