Last week, ex Crazy Eddie CFO, notorious convicted felon and known Twitter troll Sam Antar tipped us off to a questionable AICPA webcast called "Voices of Fraud," which ended up on his radar likely because he has a robust Google Alert for his own name. Here's what he told us:
The AICPA is offering a course called “Voices of Fraud” and the speaker is James O'Brian from ParenteBeard LLC – Forensic Accounting & Litigation Services.
Description as follows:
A look into the mind of an admitted white-collar crook. Sam Antar, then CFO, who at any given time was either skimming or overinflating his company's sales to avoid income taxes, inflate stock prices, or otherwise benefit himself and the family that ran the business.
It also shows how external pressure is not the only reason fraud is committed and that often it is just a crime of opportunity. Antar states that there was no pressure and that it was just a way of life for him. He also discusses that by controlling what people saw and through hiring inexperienced audit firms with inexperienced staff he was able to avoid the questions that may have brought the fraud to light sooner.
Back in 1994, the AICPA booted me because of my conviction. In 2011, I spent many hours assisting the AICPA Fraud Force project without compensation. While I am flattered that the AIPCA is offering a course about my criminal mind, I am upset that they didn’t have the courtesy to seek my permission in advance. Had they asked my permission in advance, I would have gladly granted it without compensation as a courtesy for the purpose of furthering fraud education. I’ve assisted many fraud researchers without seeking a dime in compensation. Now, the same organization that booted me because of crimes is trying to make money selling purported knowledge of my criminal mind (see price on file attachment). Furthermore, the speaker never interviewed me for this course. How can he honestly offer such a course?
Remember, this is the AICPA, a professional organization dedicated to promoting ethics in the accounting profession. They probably violated their own code of ethics in offering this course.
Alright. Seems a little shady. Not criminal or anything (we'll leave that to Sam) but shady. We went to look at the webcast — which offers 2 CPE credits for $99 (AICPA members) or $124 (non-members) — and at first glance, you might not even realize Sam himself isn't running the webcast. A reasonable person might think a webinar called "Voices of Fraud" which promotes "a look into the mind of an admitted white-collar crook" would be in said white collar crook's own voice, or at a minimum presented by someone who has at least had a peek inside said mind. When I asked Sam who the hell this O'Brian guy is, he said he had no idea. "I have been doing fraud longer than he's been doing forensic accounting," he said.
After I talked to Sam, I wrote the AICPA to ask if they wanted to comment. My email went a little something like this:
[Sam] says he finds it in poor taste that the AICPA didn't reach out to him beforehand — I'm wondering if you guys want to respond in any way or explain the reasoning behind this webinar?
I don't have an opinion either way but I did agree with Sam that at quick glance, it seems a little misleading in that it is called "Voices of Fraud" and the description might make someone to believe Sam is somehow involved. It isn't unless one clicks over to "speaker bios" that you would know Sam is not involved at all. Maybe that is intentional?
Not surprisingly, I didn't hear back (I didn't expect them to respond, just wanted to give them the opportunity before I ran the story because that's what we journalists are supposed to do, ya know). And then the strangest thing happened. The AICPA changed the course description:
This webcast will explore the red flags, motives and opportunities utilized by white collar criminals and looks into the case of a former fraudster who successfully perpetuated a scheme to skim and overinflate his company's sales to avoid income taxes, inflate stock prices, and otherwise benefit himself and the family that ran the business.
This event will reveal how external pressure is not the only reason fraud is committed and how fraud is simply a crime of opportunity. Attendees for this event will be exposed to the ways fraudsters can potentially avoid the questions that may bring the fraud to light by controlling what people see and hiring inexperienced audit firms with inexperienced staff.
In response, Sam told us the AICPA needs a lesson in ethics. He said he's happy to assist them on future fraud webinars any time if they give him a call, and his prices are better than $149 a head. In fact, we hear his prices are insane! Sam Antar will not be undersold!