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Dawna Wright

Dawna Wright

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Thought Leader

Thought Leaders Global Elite 2019 - Forensic Accountants

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

Questions & Answers

The views expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, Inc, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.

Dawna Wright is a senior managing director and leads the forensic practice of FTI Consulting in Australia. A chartered accountant with more than 25 years of experience, Dawna has lived and worked in Canada, the US, France and Australia. She reads, writes and speaks fluent French. Dawna specialises in forensic accounting and economic loss and damages. She has given expert testimony many times, in litigation and arbitration in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore.

What attracted you to a career in forensic accountancy?

I was always interested in law, but decided to pursue a commerce degree. Forensic accounting is a good way to combine the two. In comparison with auditing, I love that each case is a puzzle to be solved, and the opportunity to help smart clients with complex issues.

What has been the most memorable case you have worked on over the course of your career so far, and why?

It’s impossible to choose one! The thing that I love about this career is that there is something interesting about every case, and it’s a different aspect each time. For example, a current matter is interesting because it involves learning all about the different forms of gold traded by refiners and bullion dealers; a very large construction dispute was memorable because I worked with my quantity surveyor colleagues; a mining-related matter took me onsite to the Republic of Congo and Mauritania – certainly memorable locations!

You have worked at a forensic boutique and Deloitte, and you are now at FTI Consulting. What have been the major differences?

I started my career in audit at Deloitte, which provides great training. But when I got to the stage of trying to build my own expert witness practice, I was limited by the conflicts. Moving to an independent boutique firm eliminated that issue. However, resources and, importantly, the types of expertise in the boutique firm were limited. The firm is only in Australia – but our clients have cross-border problems. FTI Consulting is the best of both worlds – independent and global. We are free of conflicts, and I can offer a whole global firm of amazing, diverse expertise to my local clients in Australia. This has added another dimension to the practice that is really appreciated by clients.

What qualities make a successful expert witness?

I think it’s all about balance. An ability to both see the big picture and think strategically, but also know when to dive into the detail. Confident enough to state and defend an opinion, but enough of a “fear of failure” to put in the work. Ability to juggle competing priorities, but when required, concentrate intensely on one thing for long periods. Balance between analytical skills and communication skills. Able to analyse complex issues, but explain concisely. Competitiveness helps – it’s an adversarial process and you need your expert to go the extra mile when engaged in “hand-to-hand combat” with the opposing expert. But experts also need to be collaborative with their clients and highly collaborative with their own teams.

What are the greatest challenges currently facing forensic experts?

Our biggest challenge in Australia is finding good people. We have a much smaller talent pool than the bigger markets. But our skillset is highly transferable around the world, so we benefit from inbound transfers and from leveraging our global resources.

How do you expect the Australian market to develop over the next few years?

Australia’s regulatory environment has always lagged behind the USA and the UK, but is now ramping up. I expect to see an increase in regulatory-driven matters.

What steps does the profession need to take to enhance diversity and gender equality?

I think that we have fallen behind the law firms in Australia. And generally, Australia is behind the US and the UK. So the short answer is that we should be doing whatever is working in the law firms and is working overseas. We have a long way to go with flexibility in ways of working – Australia is a long way behind the USA on that one. We won’t effect change until flexibility and parental leave are equally embraced by men and women. Most men have children and careers – it should not be a “gender” issue. We won’t have true equality until all the issues that are currently seen as “women’s issues” are just seen as “human issues”. In the longer term, we need to get more women and people of different backgrounds interested in forensic accounting to build a diverse pipeline of future experts.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

In five years I hope to have grown and developed the FTI Consulting practice in Australia to a point where others in the team are taking on more of their own expert roles. This will allow me to get more involved in specialised areas like international arbitration. I would like to say I will be thinking about retiring. But the “problem” with expert witness work seems to be that the more experience you have, the more interesting appointments you get! Every year I find new, interesting, challenging matters, and I can honestly say I learn something every time. As long as that continues, I don’t think I will be able to walk away. As an eventual retirement plan, I would like to have more of a portfolio approach. Perhaps work on my own, taking on a few select expert appointments, but also board appointments and more not-for-profit work.

Global Leader

Arbitration Expert Witnesses 2019

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

 Dawna Wright is highly recommended by peers in Australia as an expert witness. Sources say, "She is easy to deal with and the quality of her work is spot-on."

Biography

Dawna Wright is a senior managing director and leader of the Australian forensic practice of FTI Consulting. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. A chartered accountant with 25 years' experience, Dawna began her career as an auditor and has lived and worked in Canada, the United States, France and Australia. She reads, writes and speaks fluent French.

Dawna specialises in economic loss, business valuations and forensic accounting, acting as an expert witness, a consulting expert and an independent expert determiner. Her experience includes general commercial disputes, class action litigation, shareholder disputes, post-acquisition disputes, corporate investigations and financial statement restatements.

Dawna has acted as an expert in many complex and high-profile matters. She has provided expert testimony many times, in litigation in all jurisdictions of Australia, as well as arbitrations seated in Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong. She also has extensive experience with expert conclaves, concurrent evidence and mediations, which are used widely in Australia.

Dawna's international arbitration experience is mainly related to assessing economic loss in the mining, construction, pharmaceutical and manufacturing/distribution sectors. Her litigation experience also reaches across most other sectors.

Dawna has served as a director on several not-for-profit boards, including as chair of audit and risk committees. Currently she is the chair of the national forensic accounting committee of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand and a member of the global finance and audit committee for Amnesty International. She is one of a handful of business valuation specialists designated by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. Dawna specialises in the interpretation of complex data and financial information for non-financial clients, particularly lawyers and boards of directors. Clients value her accessibility and her hands-on approach.

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

National Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Dawna Wright is a consummate forensic expert who has extensive experience testifying in complex auditing and financial analysis disputes. 

Biography

Dawna Wright is a senior managing director and leader of the Australian forensic practice of FTI Consulting. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. A chartered accountant with 25 years' experience, Dawna began her career as an auditor and has lived and worked in Canada, the United States, France and Australia. She reads, writes and speaks fluent French.

Dawna specialises in economic loss, business valuations and forensic accounting, acting as an expert witness, a consulting expert and an independent expert determiner. Her experience includes general commercial disputes, class action litigation, shareholder disputes, post-acquisition disputes, corporate investigations and financial statement restatements.

Dawna has acted as an expert in many complex and high-profile matters. She has provided expert testimony many times, in litigation in all jurisdictions of Australia, as well as arbitrations seated in Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong. She also has extensive experience with expert conclaves, concurrent evidence and mediations, which are used widely in Australia.

Dawna's international arbitration experience is mainly related to assessing economic loss in the mining, construction, pharmaceutical and manufacturing/distribution sectors. Her litigation experience also reaches across most other sectors.

Dawna has served as a director on several not-for-profit boards, including as chair of audit and risk committees. She was the chair of the national forensic accounting committee of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand from 2014 to 2019, and is currently a member of the global finance and audit committee for Amnesty International. She is one of a handful of business valuation specialists designated by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. Dawna specialises in the interpretation of complex data and financial information for non-financial clients, particularly lawyers and boards of directors. Clients value her accessibility and her hands-on approach.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Dawna Wright is a well-regarded name among peers thanks to her considerable experience providing first-rate forensic advice and expert testimony to clients.

Biography

Dawna Wright is a senior managing director and leader of the Australian forensic practice of FTI Consulting. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. A chartered accountant with 25 years' experience, Dawna began her career as an auditor and has lived and worked in Canada, the United States, France and Australia. She reads, writes and speaks fluent French.

Dawna specialises in economic loss, business valuations and forensic accounting, acting as an expert witness, a consulting expert and an independent expert determiner. Her experience includes general commercial disputes, class action litigation, shareholder disputes, post-acquisition disputes, corporate investigations and financial statement restatements.

Dawna has acted as an expert in many complex and high-profile matters. She has provided expert testimony many times, in litigation in all jurisdictions of Australia, as well as arbitrations seated in Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong. She also has extensive experience with expert conclaves, concurrent evidence and mediations, which are used widely in Australia.

Dawna's international arbitration experience is mainly related to assessing economic loss in the mining, construction, pharmaceutical and manufacturing/distribution sectors. Her litigation experience also reaches across most other sectors.

Dawna has served as a director on several not-for-profit boards, including as chair of audit and risk committees. She was the chair of the national forensic accounting committee of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand from 2014 to 2019, and is currently a member of the global finance and audit committee for Amnesty International. She is one of a handful of business valuation specialists designated by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. Dawna specialises in the interpretation of complex data and financial information for non-financial clients, particularly lawyers and boards of directors. Clients value her accessibility and her hands-on approach.

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