To mark International Fraud Awareness Week, McGrathNicol’s financial crime collaboration hub FCX hosted a series of expert events in our Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra offices to discuss experiences and challenges for Australian businesses managing risk arising from employee fraud and corruption.
Our guest speaker, financial crime offender, author of the recently published book “The Prisoner” and inspiration for the ABC television series Wentworth, Ms Kerry Tucker, spoke of the circumstances that led her to commit fraud and the subsequent four and a half years spent in a maximum security jail.
Desperate to escape a violent marriage, Kerry seized an opportunity to misappropriate funds from her logging company employer totalling almost $2,000,000. Over six years, Kerry leveraged her position within the company to exploit weaknesses by writing fraudulent cheques and forging signatures. She said she knew the system back to front. Kerry admitted that she thought she would get away with her crime and never expected to get caught – making it through six audits, without so much as a single concern being raised. She believed she maintained the façade well.
Upon reflection, Kerry said her employer could have uncovered her fraud much earlier by having greater oversight from management, segregating duties and even just checking their bank balance. It was her belief that an honest person could become dishonest when the circumstances permit.
A panel discussion then followed in each office.
Sydney hosted Murray Priestman, a workplace culture advisor and Founder of Priestman Associates and Associate Professor Paul Andon from UNSW Business School. Panellists shared their insights into fraud prevention, occupational fraud research and the importance of workplace culture
One of the key points of the discussion concerned influencing culture within the workplace. Murray Priestman described the inputs and outputs that could impact risk culture, stemming from who an organisation recruits, the types of employee behaviours being incentivised through to the leadership and tone set from the top. Understanding employee attitudes was critical to providing a platform to drill down to activities that shape the workplace. Murray Priestman also recognised the importance of enabling employees to have a sense of ownership of risk while holding them accountable.
Understanding motivations, opportunities and behaviours, according to Associate Professor Andon, can inform organisations on how to better detect fraud in the workplace.
Hearing from a real life financial crime offender provided attendees the opportunity to ask questions of the perpetrator. This is a rare event and provides insights into the impact fraud has on the individual, victim organisation and families. Today, Kerry is an advocate for greater awareness of domestic violence.
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