Q. What is a Forensic Accountant?
A Forensic Accountant is like a financial investigator who advises on the financial aspects of disputes. Where there is a Court case involved, the Forensic Accountant will present accounting analysis which is suitable to be used in legal proceedings to assist the Court in reaching a judgement.
Their work involves analysing data, problem solving and presenting financial information in a clear and understandable way to help the parties resolve their dispute.
Q. What work does a Forensic Accountant do?
The work done by a Forensic Accountant is very varied and includes calculating losses suffered by businesses or individuals, valuing private businesses, analysing large volumes of financial data, tracing funds through bank accounts, compiling and summarising income and/or expenditure where parties are separating, reviewing and commenting on financial statements.
Q Does a Forensic Accountant only deal with fraud?
Although fraud cases tend to attract more attention in the press, Forensic Accountants are also involved in civil litigation, where parties have a disagreement with some financial aspect.
Q. Why do I need a Forensic Accountant?
It can help to have someone who can examine financial information with fresh eyes and who has the experience to analyse, summarise and present complex financial data in an understandable way.
In a Court case, if the financial analysis is prepared by someone independent of the parties to the dispute, it will carry more weight.
Q. Will the Forensic Accountant be on my side?
If a Forensic Accountant is appointed as an Expert Witness, their primary responsibility is to the Court and not to the party who has appointed them, or who is paying them. They will be expected to give an opinion on aspects of the case which may be detrimental to a case if they become aware of them, as well as give an opinion on aspects which may support a case.
An Expert Witness will not give advice on how your case should be run – this is for your legal team to do.
If a Forensic Accountant has been appointed only as your Expert adviser, they can advise you on the particular aspects of your claim or defence, but they will not give evidence to the Court as they are not acting in an independent capacity.
Q. What is an Expert Witness?
An Expert Witness is appointed by either one party, or jointly by both parties to a dispute, to provide sworn evidence to the Court on their area of technical expertise. They will give their impartial opinion on how the technical information should be interpreted. A Forensic Accountant’s area of technical expertise is in Accounting and interpreting financial data.
An Expert Witness has an over-riding duty to the Court.
An Expert Witness can only give opinions within their own area of expertise and must not stray into other areas in which they are not an Expert.
An Expert Witness is different to a Witness of Fact, who gives evidence to the Court on events in which they were involved and of which they have first-hand knowledge, but they will not be asked to give an opinion.
Q. What is an Expert opinion?
An opinion from an expert is the advice or judgment that they give you in the subject that they know a lot about.
Q. Can I pay the Forensic Accountant based on the outcome of the case?
A Forensic Accountant must be independent of the dispute, especially where they are acting as an Expert Witness, and they are prohibited from charging fees based on the outcome.
In an advisory capacity, if the fees were based on the outcome of the case, the Forensic Accountant would have a conflict of interest when calculating the loss/claim figure. However, there is nothing to prevent contingent fees being agreed, but this is something which we generally avoid.
Q. Does there have to be a Court case involved?
No, the work done by a Forensic Accountant can be used at any stage of a dispute and may assist the parties in avoiding Court action altogether.
There does not even have to be a dispute as a Forensic Accountant may be of help in any circumstances where you have financial data to be analysed and presented.
Q. Do I have to instruct you through a solicitor?
If there is a court action involved, having your solicitor instruct us will ensure that the work we are doing is aligned to the approach your solicitor is taking to your case.
However, if you do not wish your solicitor to instruct us, perhaps for financial reasons, we can accept direct instruction. You will then be asked to sign a letter of engagement, which will set out the agreed scope of work and the agreed fees amongst other administrative matters.
If you have not yet instructed a solicitor, or our work is not needed for a legal dispute, we will also accept direct instruction.
Q. Why should I engage Willis Wood?
Willis Wood have been providing independent Forensic Accounting services since 2013, using a wealth of experience gained in Forensic Accounting since 2003. As a specialised practice there is less possibility of conflicts of interest as we do not provide mainstream accounting services to individuals or businesses. We are able to respond quickly to enquiries and will assess every enquiry based on our ability to provide the service you need, however big or small the case may be.