Date posted: 4/03/2020 3 min read

View from the Chair: Update from Matthew Ashby

While forensic accounting is a newly-recognised discipline, it has always been part of our DNA.

In brief

  • Forensic accounting is a relatively new discipline – but was foreshadowed in our early history
  • The Chartered Accountants’ coat of arms suggests a link between forensic accounting and justice
  • The principle of objectivity remains a core tenet of the code of ethics for forensic accountants

Matthew Ashby

Matthew Ashby CA, Forensic Accounting Committee Chair

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing two experienced forensic accountants, David Van Homrigh and Paul Vincent, about the past, present and future of forensic accounting in Australia. (A free video recording of the session is available here.)

One observation made about the development of forensic accounting in our region, was that it has only become a recognised discipline in the past few decades.

Although forensic accounting is a relatively new branch of the accountancy profession, one might suggest it was always a strand in Chartered Accountants’ DNA, which was destined to emerge in its own right – and which was foreshadowed in our early history.

The old coat of arms of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, granted in 1929, depicts two peregrine falcons, with balances in their beaks, supporting a shield.

The balances, akin to scales, symbolise justice. Since forensic accounting relates to matters in court, or which could be brought before a court or similar tribunal, there is an intrinsic link between forensic accounting and the pursuit of justice.

Beneath the shield are the words ‘nec timens, nec favens’ (without fear, without favour). This motto emphasises the importance of objectivity, a fundamental principle in our code of ethics today. Objectivity – to not allow bias, conflict of interest or undue influence of others to override professional or business judgements – is an essential quality of successful forensic accountants. This is typified by the role of an accounting expert witness, whose paramount duty is to the court, overriding any duty to their client.

“Since forensic accounting relates to matters in court, or which could be brought before a court or similar tribunal, there is an intrinsic link between forensic accounting and the pursuit of justice.”

The peregrine falcon is a powerful raptor that specialises in hunting at high speed. Today’s forensic accountants are able to respond to contentious situations rapidly, with a keen eye for detail and the ability to home in on vital information under pressure – for example in fraud investigations, where money, reputation, employment and even freedom can be at stake.

Our local subspecies of falcon has particularly large talons – ideal for catching galahs, a favoured prey. A mature market, where expectations on forensic accountants are high, may breed a new species of ‘forensic falcon’ accountants – Falco Forensis – whose professional education, experience, and ethical commitment will separate them from the ‘galahs’.

On another note, we know it’s sometimes hard to find time to read newsletters as soon as they arrive, so we’re now hosting the past four newsletters on the Forensic Accounting web page, making it easy to catch up later on.

As always, we invite members to get involved in the newsletter and Forensic Accounting community. To suggest or contribute an article for future editions of this newsletter, please email us.