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Thought Leaders Global Elite - Forensic Accountants 2021

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

With more than 20 years of experience in accounting, Dawna Wright is an internationally renowned expert who draws praise for her expertise in auditing and forensic accounting.

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 United States, 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.

Describe your career to date. 

I started my career as an auditor with a Big 4 firm in Canada. I was in a quite ‘generalised’ practice, so I had clients across many industries, from manufacturing and mining to healthcare and financial services. I spoke fluent French, so once I became a CA, I went on a secondment to Paris for 18 months. I then spent three years in New York, when I started in forensic accounting. I moved to Melbourne with the same firm and was made a partner in 2004. I was recruited by a boutique Australian firm in 2009, and then by FTI Consulting to start their forensic practice in Australia in 2014.

What types of cases have you been working on recently?

When I started in New York, I mostly worked on financial investigations and post-acquisition disputes. In Australia, I have mostly acted as an expert in disputes involving forensic accounting, loss and damage, and business valuations. Over the last two years, the most common matters have been shareholder disputes, construction disputes, post-acquisition disputes and class actions.

What qualities make for an effective testifying expert?

I think it’s all about balance. 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. A balance between analytical skills and communication skills. An ability 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.

How has covid-19 impacted the nature of disputes and related proceedings? How do you anticipate the landscape changing for arbitration hearings in the future?

Like everywhere, covid-19 has impacted the dispute resolution process, which has become a mix of ‘live’ and ‘virtual’. Our FTI Consulting technology team has been busy supporting virtual arbitration hearings (“hearings in a box”!). This could have a positive impact on arbitration in the future, if it makes the process more accessible by reducing the burden of having to travel for weeks for hearings. And covid-19 has also generated its own disputes. One Australian state, Victoria, had a dramatically worse ‘second wave’ of covid-19 cases than the other states. This has prompted several class actions to be filed in Victoria, seeking compensation for businesses that have suffered losses. There will undoubtedly be more cases filed related to disclosures to markets and in transactions, and for specific businesses and contracts.

How do you anticipate post-acquisition disputes developing in a post-covid-19 environment?

Post-acquisition disputes generally arise because the business post-acquisition is not meeting the expectations of the purchaser. The purchaser seeks recourse through mechanisms ranging from completion adjustments to warranty and indemnity insurance claims, or litigation for breaches of warranties or misleading disclosures. The volatility in markets and in trading caused by covid-19 will increase the level of scrutiny applied by purchasers and will increase the risk of post-acquisition disputes where they were not able to negotiate sufficient protection into the sale agreement. Conversely, this can work to the advantage of sellers if they negotiate low thresholds and then exceed them, creating a significant upside.

How do you liaise and work with other experts in your practice, and how do you seek to maintain diverse teams? Why is this important? 

Our clients have complex problems requiring a multi-disciplined approach and highly specialised expertise. Many of our cases involve a combination of expertise in finance, accounting, and economics, supported by an operational industry expert, or by our technology or communications experts. For example, our forensic accountants work closely with our event study economists in shareholder class actions, or with our quantity surveyors in construction disputes. I find the most interesting cases are those that allow us to work with colleagues with different expertise to my own. We are passionate about diversity – in expertise, in background, in geography, in culture, in gender. A diverse team allows us to surround complex problems from a variety of viewpoints to achieve the best outcome. 

What makes FTI Consulting stand out from its competitors in the market?

The things that make FTI Consulting stand out are our unique combination of expertise together with our culture. Our unique combination of practices within FTI Consulting enables us to approach issues from a number of different angles (see above). But we not only have a group of amazing and talented experts across a wide range of disciplines - we also have a highly collaborative culture that encourages, facilitates and rewards them for working together, putting the client’s needs at the centre of everything we do.

Thought Leaders Global Elite - Quantum of Damages 2021
WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended

Peers and clients say

"Dawna is very personable, very capable and proactive"
"She would always be top of my list"
"She is a great communicator, is very responsive and very approachable"
"Dawna was excellent, as was her team"

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 more than 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 interprets complex data and financial information for non-financial clients, particularly lawyers, courts, and boards of directors, who value her accessibility and her hands-on approach.

She 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, construction disputes, class action litigation, shareholder disputes, post-acquisition disputes, breach of warranties, insurance claims, 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 experience in assessing economic loss and damages includes a wide range of industries such as mining, construction, pharmaceutical, manufacturing/distribution, professional services, shareholders' securities, retail and hospitality.

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. She 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. 

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

With over 20 years’ experience, Dawna Wright comes highly recommended by peers and clients alike for her excellent work in economic loss, valuations and complex commercial 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 more than 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 interprets complex data and financial information for non-financial clients, particularly lawyers, courts, and boards of directors, who value her accessibility and her hands-on approach.

She 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, breach of warranties, insurance claims, 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 experience in assessing economic loss and damages includes a wide range of industries such as mining, construction, pharmaceutical, manufacturing/distribution, professional services, shareholders' securities, retail and hospitality.

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. 

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

With more than 20 years of experience in accounting, Dawna Wright is an internationally renowned expert who draws praise for her expertise in auditing and forensic accounting.

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 more than 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 interprets complex data and financial information for non-financial clients, particularly lawyers and boards of directors, who value her accessibility and her hands-on approach.

She 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, breach of warranties, insurance claims, 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 investigation and forensic accounting expertise draws on her earlier experience as an auditor. She now uses these skills to provide opinions on compliance with accounting and auditing standards, reconstruct financial statements, analyse voluminous and complex transaction datasets and construct financial models.

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.

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

National Leader

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