Lindi Jarvis is a senior managing director at FTI Consulting and is based in Seattle. As a forensic accountant, she leads some of FTI’s largest global investigations, including matters involving SEC financial reporting, violations of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the UK Bribery Act and other fraudulent activities. Lindi regularly assists clients with fraud risk management – from development of compliance programmes to reviewing policies and procedures, and developing corresponding internal controls.
DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER TO DATE.
I started my career in the audit practice of a Big Four firm before serendipitously lending a hand to the forensics team on a large project. What was supposed to be a short stint developed into a career of over 15 years in forensic accounting. I have lived in Canada, the Cayman Islands, New York and Seattle, and my work has taken me to over 20 countries.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT BEING A FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT THAT YOU ENJOY MOST?
Each engagement is very different from the next, and I enjoy the variety of work. In the context of anti-corruption engagements, I feel that I am a small cog in an important wheel that helps detect and prevent corruption. While my day-to-day tasks involve conference calls and spreadsheets, I like to tell my children, “I’m looking for the bad guys.”
I’m also fortunate to work with a great team of anti-corruption professionals at FTI; many of us have more than 10 years of experience at FTI alone. We are a pretty tight-knit group, a quality gained during in-country investigations. There is nothing like bonding in a foreign land with different customs and interesting food. I truly enjoy working with this global peer group.
WHAT QUALITIES MAKE FOR A SUCCESSFUL FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT?
Curiosity and flexibility are key. These traits, along with my audit background and CPA designation have provided me with an in-depth understanding of the relevant information to ask for, how to trace funds through an organisation, and an understanding of internal controls – both how they should work and what could be improved. An attention to detail and good project management skills are also essential.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES OF LEADING FORENSIC ACCOUNTING AND FINANCIAL INVESTIGATIONS ON AN INTERNATIONAL SCALE?
As more countries develop their own anti-bribery and data protection laws, determining the details of where the investigation needs to be conducted and where the corresponding information is hosted and reviewed becomes an important consideration at the outset. It requires good planning and using the right resources in the right countries to make sure we don’t run afoul of data protection, privacy and transfer issues. On top of this, there are more personal challenges such as juggling the workload, managing different time zones, communicating with the team, staying on top of emails and powering through jet lag.
YOU REGULARLY SUPPORT DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE-APPOINTED MONITORS PURSUANT TO AN FCPA INVESTIGATION. WHAT INSIGHTS HAVE YOU GAINED FROM THIS WORK?
Supporting a monitor provides a unique opportunity to work closely with both counsel and the company. The focus of supporting a monitor is very proactive; we work together to review the company’s compliance program and provide observations for improvement in a very constructive way. By comparison, investigations can often be characterised by the need to figure out who did what, when and how – in a very compressed time frame, with less of a focus on remediation.
HOW DOES FTI CONSULTING DISTINGUISH ITSELF FROM THE COMPETITION?
FTI is a global firm with more than 4,700 employees located in 27 countries. With many of our practitioners coming from industry management positions, we have unique industry insights and perspectives which can help clients address critical business issues. We are also free from many of the conflicts of other advisory firms as we do not provide audit services. Finally, we use tools and technology to enhance our effectiveness and efficiency, increase our ability to collaborate, and enable our professionals to have current information at their fingertips to deliver greater insights.
WHERE, IN YOUR OPINION, DOES THE FUTURE OF THE PRACTICE AREA LIE?
Clients will continue to seek assistance from counsel and advisers such as forensic accountants. However, investigations must be cost-effective and leverage data analytics tools to streamline the process. Attorneys and accountants must be nimble in responding to client needs, which will continue to put pressure on staffing models and pricing practices.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE STARTING OUT IN THE INVESTIGATIONS SPACE?
For someone with an accounting degree, I highly recommend pursuing the CPA designation. The investment of time and effort is well worth the future rewards. As a qualified accountant, a CPA has the ability to work in a complementary manner with attorneys on both proactive and reactive engagements. In addition, taking courses and seeking on-the-job experience in SQL and other data manipulation software is very relevant to investigations – particularly as the world of big data continues to expand.