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Thought Leaders

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Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Yousr Khalil ranks highly for her outstanding forensic practice. One respondent comments: “Yousr is terrific at what she does and deserves special recognition for her outstanding work.”

Questions & Answers

Yousr Khalil is a partner at FRA and a forensic accountant with over 16 years’ experience in matters involving fraud and corruption, government contracts litigation, internal investigation, due diligence, compliance, and governance and risk management in the US, Latin America, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. At FRA Yousr oversees all the Paris office’s forensic accounting projects, and has been leading the forensic accounting structured data analysis of a large multinational bribery and corruption investigation for over two years, involving analysis of large volumes of financial data to satisfy the demands of instructing lawyers and reporting to authorities.

What do you most enjoy about working in investigations?

The changing landscape, in terms of regulations and technology, makes managing an investigation a never-ending problem-solving exercise – that is my adrenaline. Reaching a successful resolution for these investigations is extremely rewarding. Working with clients and legal counsel, I have met and continue to meet some great people. The quality of the exchanges with interesting people has greatly enriched my knowledge and experience.

How do you ensure you are equipped to handle the challenges that are posed when handling large volumes of data in investigations?

By working with the best data analytics team. Data is not just about volume; it is about the integrity and completeness of the collection process, a set up in a forensically sound environment (eg, SQL) that enables efficient and speedy analysis with a strong audit trail that will stand the scrutiny of various authorities. We implement a robust system of internal controls over data access, proactively eliminating the risk of leaks and hacking in high-stake litigations and investigations. We also implement measures to ensure data is retained only as long as necessary to limit future discoverability in the event of new investigations or litigation, and to ensure the highest levels of data security through global regulatory compliance with all major jurisdictions.

How do you see the implementation of Sapin II aligning with the approach of enforcement authorities in the US and the UK?

The past few years have seen various data protection regulations emerge, some of which conflict with each other in certain areas. It may be insufficient for a company to focus narrowly on meeting the standards of Sapin if your business operates – or may one day operate – in jurisdictions where one has to consider national laws (eg, the EU GDPR, the US CLOUD Act, the China Cybersecurity Law) and even state laws (eg, the forthcoming California Consumer Privacy Act).

How beneficial is the provision of country-specific data centres in ensuring compliance with data regulations?

With the continuous changes in the regulations on data protection and data transfer, and the companies’ evolution of IT policies regarding data hosting and retention, it is paramount for companies and their legal counsel to address the data hosting and exchange protocol on day one of the investigation – otherwise, companies are susceptible to high costs, and exposed to the risk of heavy fines. Strategic decisions made today around data transfers will have important ramifications down the line. We advise clients to consult and involve data privacy and transfer experts from the outset of any multi-jurisdictional investigation, and to weigh the risks of using untested or controversial data transfer mechanisms. Our advice, to minimise the chances of breaching future data transfer laws, is to err on the side of caution and keep data within its jurisdiction of origin as far as possible. Maintaining country-specific data centres and/or the use of mobile solutions provides clients with the necessary solutions to avoid hefty fines related to breaches in data transfers.

What are the greatest challenges currently facing forensic accountants in the investigations space?

Data – and more specifically the increasing volumes of data. Global investigations nowadays often involve millions of documents. Only a few years ago, manual review was seen as the only option. This is no longer an option. For multi-jurisdictional investigations, technology-assisted review will soon be the only sensible and cost-effective way to handle large-scale reviews and production.

What are your priorities for FRA in the near future as co-head of the firm’s Paris office?

To keep on growing! In the past 12 months we have increased our headcount, acquired new expertise, and developed new service lines and technology – we will be doing more of the same in 2020. FRA’s entire leadership team is dedicated to the firm’s growth strategy over the next five years, and to staying true to our principle of being “trusted advisers” to our clients.

Your career has been very internationally focused. How has this enhanced your practice as a forensic expert?

Cultural awareness is critical for a forensic expert. The numbers are facts, however; they are generated and managed by individuals from various cultures, which will ultimately impact the explanation provided. Understanding the nuances to the various cultures is vital for this.

What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

Don’t assess others in the same light as you do yourself. They will always fall short of your expectations and that is not fair to either of you.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Yousr Khalil has an impressive reputation in the French market, offering clients a wealth of expertise on matters such as fraud, compliance and risk management.

Questions & Answers

Yousr has over 18 years’ experience structuring and delivering forensic accounting services in support of multi-jurisdictional investigations; and developing and testing compliance programmes and complex dispute resolutions and arbitrations. Most recently Yousr helped Telia respond to bribery allegations and related disgorgement and pecuniary gain analysis for its $965 million FCPA settlement. Yousr is presently co-leading the forensic accounting analysis for a large multi-national aerospace company facing bribery and corruption investigation by the French PNF, the UK SFO and the US DOJ.

DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER TO DATE.

I wanted to be a fighter pilot and fate had it that I studied accounting, which I found very easy. I followed the typical career and joined Arthur Andersen LLP’s government contracts and consulting practice in Virginia, USA where I participated in both auditing and forensic accounting. I found the world of forensic accounting most fascinating and made it my career. I am fortunate that my work was challenging with engagements across various industries (telecoms, pharma, mining, constructions, aerospace) and diverse engagements (eg, internal and external investigations for financial statement fraud, bribery and corruption, monitorship, expert testimony, and compliance-related reviews). Having spent the majority of my career in Washington, DC, I was ready for a new challenge and moved to Paris to help develop FRA forensic services in the French market.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO SPECIALISE IN FORENSIC ACCOUNTING?

My first FCPA investigation in Luanda, Angola. My boss at the time did not believe that a woman wanted to travel to Angola. For me, the thought of investigation (finding the needle in the hay stack) and travelling to new places was a big adrenaline rush; and that remains the case.

WHAT QUALITIES MAKE FOR A SUCCESSFUL FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT?

Having an inquisitive mind; constantly challenging the status quo; and knowing that forensic accounting is not a checklist review. Every client and engagement is unique and your first agenda item is pragmatically and efficiently managing risks.

HOW HAS THE ENTERING INTO FORCE OF SAPIN II CHANGED THE NATURE OF INVESTIGATIONS CARRIED OUT IN FRANCE?

The extraterritorial element to Sapin II expands jurisdiction to the conduct of all French citizens (wherever in the world they may work or reside) and to persons of any nationality resident in France. For corporates, French jurisdiction can now be asserted over legal entities with a footprint in France, wherever else in the world it might operate.

The first consequence of this expanded jurisdictional reach, when added to other Sapin II developments such as protection for whistle-blowers and compulsory implementation of hotlines, will be an increase in the number of investigations (both internal and external). Understanding the expansion of French jurisdiction through Sapin II will be critical at the early stages of an investigation when the investigation strategy is being formed and decisions need to be made about selecting the right team. This is not always as easy as it sounds. Robust and rapid screening for a French (or any other important) nexus from the available data sources will be needed to make the right decisions early on. Getting these decisions right can be critical and may pay dividends later when maximising cooperation credit in any negotiated settlement with enforcement authorities.

HOW ARE INCREASED REGULATORY FRAMEWORKS AROUND THE MANAGEMENT OF DATA AFFECTING YOUR WORK?

Data regulations such as blocking statutes, data privacy, GDPR, and the handling of nationally sensitive data have been a major element of consideration across FRA’s projects since the company was founded 20 years ago. We are sensitive to and, actually, have opened country-specific data centres to ensure compliance with these requirements. We developed an airgap mobile discovery solution to meet clients’ security requirements and developed processes allowing the client’s end-user direct review of unstructured data without the need for FRA project support.

WHAT MAKES FRA STAND OUT FROM ITS COMPETITORS?

From an engagement perspective, FRA is a fully independent, conflict-free forensic adviser with no reporting requirements. Our approach to staffing is focused on assembling a lean, competent team with the requisite experience while leveraging strong data analytics to deliver a high-quality product to often extremely short deadlines – all of which supports transparent and cost-efficient client fees.

On the technical side, our services are tailored to each engagement for the type and level of complexity. FRA employs a diversified team from various industries, regulatory agencies and cultures allowing the delivery of a tailored, practical high quality work product that is supported by smart global staffing.

Most importantly, one cornerstone of the FRA culture is the development of our team both professionally and personally – all of which supports the creation of strong FRA teams (we work really well together and we have fun) and naturally extends to the relationships we develop with our clients. I am proud to say that our clients like working with us, and we often develop long-lasting friendships.

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR PRACTICE DEVELOPING OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

Growing and fast! FRA is a well-established forensic accounting and e-discovery partner, present in the Paris market for more than 10 years now. With the recent regulatory changes; greater focus on compliance and data protection; and our strong international, multi-jurisdictional and industry-specific experience, FRA is well positioned to continue supporting companies with their investigative and compliance requirements, and developing new friendships.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE STARTING OUT IN FORENSIC ACCOUNTING?

No matter the career, you need to enjoy what you do – otherwise, it is not worth doing.

For a career in forensic accounting, grow an appetite for constant learning and developing. It is a very challenging and super-fascinating career. Know that with every engagement, there is something new to learn.

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Yousr Khalil ranks highly for her outstanding forensic practice. One respondent comments: “Yousr is terrific at what she does and deserves special recognition for her outstanding work."

Biography

Yousr Khalil, a partner at FRA, is a forensic accountant with over 16 years’ experience in matters involving fraud and corruption, government contracts litigation, internal investigation, due diligence, compliance, and governance and risk management in the US, Latin America, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. She is a certified public accountant (CPA), certified internal auditor (CIA), certified fraud examiner (CFE) and is certified in financial forensics (CFF). She is fluent in English, Arabic and French plus has a working knowledge of Portuguese.

At FRA, Yousr oversees all the Paris office’s forensic accounting projects and has been leading the forensic accounting structured data analysis of a large multi-national bribery and corruption investigation for over two years, involving analysis of large volumes of financial data to satisfy the demands of instructing lawyers and reporting to authorities. This has involved liaison with international legal teams to answer multiple regulators requests including the DOJ, the SFO and French PNF. Recently, Yousr has been assisting the French Anti-corruption Agency with its first compliance monitorship review following company payments to French officials to secure sales contracts which were deemed improper.

Prior to FRA, Yousr worked for Kroll in Dubai in their Middle East financial investigations practice. Yousr was part of the team engaged by the Bahraini public prosecutor to investigate complaints submitted by the Central Bank of Bahrain and the Algosaibi family related to the collapse of The International Banking Corporation and Awal Bank. In addition, she has experience supporting clients in addressing their Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) and government contracts compliance issues in a wide range of industries.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Yousr Khalil's "scope is deeply impressive" and she excels in a wide array of investigation matters. She is "never overwhelmed" and always finds a "path to victory".

Biography

Yousr Khalil is a partner at FRA and head of FRA’s Paris office. She is a forensic accountant with almost 20 years' experience in matters involving fraud and corruption, government contracts litigation, internal investigation, due diligence, compliance, and governance and risk management in the US, Latin America, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. She is a certified public accountant (CPA), certified internal auditor (CIA), certified fraud examiner (CFE) and is certified in financial forensics (CFF). She is fluent in English, Arabic and French, and has a working knowledge of Portuguese.

Yousr led and managed a fully integrated FRA client service team in the landmark Airbus €3.6billion global settlement. Leading a team of 70 professionals across FRA offices in Europe and the United States, she was responsible for the forensic accounting and eDiscovery review within the context of the company’s multinational, multi-year investigation, reporting to four investigative authorities: UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the US Department of State (DOS) and French Parquet National Financier (PNF). Yousr led the forensic accounting structured data analysis, involving analysis of large volumes of financial data and liaising with international legal teams across multiple jurisdictions.

In 2018, Yousr assisted counsel through the first French Anti-corruption Agency compliance monitorship on a review which included the collection and analysis of financial and accounting data, high-risk transaction testing and interviews.

Prior to FRA, Yousr worked for Kroll in Dubai in their Middle East financial investigations practice. Yousr was part of the team engaged by the Bahraini public prosecutor to investigate complaints submitted by the Central Bank of Bahrain and the Algosaibi family related to the collapse of The International Banking Corporation and Awal Bank.

National Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Yousr Khalil is a standout practitioner in the French market who excels on issues such as procurement disputes, internal investigations and fraud and corruption cases.

Biography

Yousr Khalil, a partner at FRA, is a forensic accountant with over 16 years’ experience in matters involving fraud and corruption, government contracts litigation, internal investigation, due diligence, compliance, and governance and risk management in the US, Latin America, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. She is a certified public accountant (CPA), a certified internal auditor (CIA) and a certified fraud examiner (CFE), and is also certified in financial forensics (CFF). She is fluent in English, Arabic and French, and has a working knowledge of Portuguese.

At FRA, Yousr has been leading the forensic accounting structured data analysis of a large multinational bribery and corruption investigation for over two years, involving analysis of large volumes of financial data to satisfy the demands of instructing lawyers and reporting to authorities. Recently, Yousr has been assisting the French Anti-corruption Agency with its first compliance monitorship review following company payments to French officials to secure sales contracts that were deemed improper. The review included the collection and analysis of financial and accounting data, high-risk transaction testing, document review and interviews.

Prior to FRA, Yousr worked for Kroll in Dubai as a senior director and was a key member of its Middle East financial investigations practice. There, Yousr was part of the team engaged by the Bahraini public prosecutor to investigate complaints submitted by the Central Bank of Bahrain and the Algosaibi Family related to the collapse of The International Banking Corporation and Awal Bank. 

In addition, she has experience supporting clients in addressing their Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) and government contracts compliance issues in a wide range of industries, including: professional services; oil and gas; manufacturing; biotechnology; engineering; and information technology. 

Yousr has also worked as a managing consultant for Navigant Consulting advising on complex financial reporting and financial restatements accounting issues and FCPA investigations, and as an auditor for Arthur Andersen.

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