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Nassau Chapter Litigation & Forensic Services


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About the Nassau Chapter Litigation & Forensic Services Committee

Providing pertinent and current support for the various practice niches within the accounting field is a responsibility the Chapter takes very seriously, particularly in cases where a practice area is emerging, subject to significant change or mutable by its very nature. Litigation services is a very active component in some CPA practices, and the Chapter’s Litigation Services Committee is an important resource.


Chaired by Nannette Watts, CPA, ABV, CFF and Kathleen Suker, CPA, CFF, CFE, the committee offers CPE courses, expert insight and support that cover the varied terrain of forensics, business valuation and fraud investigations to help both the inexperienced and seasoned CPA who works in or has an interest in litigation services.


“Depending upon what the topic is,” explains Nannette, “we get a different audience. Although we have a core audience of people who are involved in litigation, we also have attendees in accounting and auditing services, those who are new to accounting and have an interest in litigation services and valuation, and we even attract experienced practitioners looking to do something new. We provide programs suitable for all levels, offering as many as five CPE courses each Chapter year.”


Kathleen and Nannette bring a shared experience to their committee leadership: They both worked at Marcum, but more recently, Nannette’s experience has been with a smaller firm that focuses on litigation services. Nannette is a principal at Financial Appraisal Services Ltd. Kathleen is a manager in the Advisory Group based out of Marcum’s Long Island office and has more than 10 years of experience in forensic accounting and business valuation services.


“We made the natural progression to committee leadership after attending meetings over the years,” says Kathleen. “Together we bring a good diversity of experience to the table. Firms like Marcum deal with the larger scale, more complex situations dealing with fraud and shareholder disputes and multistate and international issues, while Nannette’s firm works more with closely held companies and performs valuations primarily for divorce and estate settlements.”


E-discovery, a hot topic in litigation, was the subject of a past CPE hosted by the committee. Suffolk County District Court Judge James P. Flanagan presented to the group along with representatives from Cyber Diligence, a local computer fraud and cyber crime investigation company. Judge Flanagan explained how he proceeds from the bench with computer records, giving the attendees a better understanding of how to put together records to benefit a case.


“Accountants need to know how to help their clients when the clients must produce records. In that role, CPAs have to be able to understand what to give, and what to hold back in response to demands for information,” says Nannette.


A rule of thumb seems to be to provide only what you’re asked for, and nothing more. “If you use a certain format, for example, there may be more underlying information that you’re also providing, as nothing on the computer is ever really deleted. An investigator can still see links to other documents or other people you’ve communicated with, even with the bcc function on emails, for example. On the flip side, there’s also a method of how to specifically ask for what you need, for example,  information that is downloadable into Excel. It’s important to do it right the first time.”


“All committee meetings result in CPE credits,” notes Kathleen. “We usually hold breakfast meetings that start with networking. There’s a core group of people who regularly attend the meetings—we’re trying to expand the group by inviting more attorneys and judges to speak at the meetings. We’ve also had successful roundtable discussions with input from different perspectives and levels of experience. We hear about real life situations, trials and cases that people have been involved in. Our audience really benefits from front line stories.”


Another CPE was on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Erica Garay, chair of the ADR practice at Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, addressed the differences between litigation and ADR, the ADR process and its components, and the role of the mediator.


“I like that all my cases and their issues are distinct and different,” says Nannette. “We deal with a gamut of industries, and from that perspective, we’re always learning about different issues. A lot of young people are interested in this field—we spoke with a lot of people at the Young CPA events.”


“Thinking outside the box is really important to this type of work,” advises Kathleen. “You need the background in traditional accounting, but then take it a step further to be able to recognize improprieties or misappropriations. People are very inventive at hiding resources and transactions and we have to be both creative and knowledgeable to uncover their tracks.”