Company bosses including those working within the chief executive or managing director’s offices are increasingly committing more fraud, according to a global KPMG survey. 

The survey found that globally board members at divisional, subsidiary and corporate level, commit nearly one fifth of fraud – an increase from 11 percent in 2007 – to 18 percent in 2011. Of the various board roles, those in CEO or MD’s offices account for an increase in committed fraud from just 11 percent in 2007 to 26 percent across the four-year period.  

Who is the typical fraudster?” analyses the pattern of fraud from 348 cases across 69 countries, selected from the thousands of cases which KPMG has investigated for its clients. Many of these cases have never been made public. The report focuses on white collar crime (including financial misreporting) and paints a picture of the characteristics that make up the average fraudster.

Richard Powell, KPMG’s EMA forensic investigations network lead, said: “While our research has shown that corporate fraudsters are typically male, 36 to 45 years old (41 percent) and often commit fraud against their own employer, what has remained ‘unknown’ until now, is the extent to which the temptation to commit fraud has infiltrated both the board and executive management across the globe.”

The research found that the ‘typical’ fraudster will work in the finance-function or a finance related-role (32 percent) often for more than 10 years (33 percent) and usually in a senior management role or board role (in aggregate 53 percent). 

Often long-serving and more senior employees will be better able to override controls and have accumulated a good deal of personal trust, so will be less suspected, said the report, and they are most prone to committing embezzlement and/or procurement fraud (these account in aggregate for more than 50 percent of the 348 cases). Examples include  false billings by a supplier to fund kick backs to a senior employee; employees accepting bribes from a contractor in exchange for signing off inflated project costs; and supplier collusion with victim company employees leading to overbilling.

While frauds are typically quite simple in concept, the report said, they can often involve quite complex means of concealment. Frequently, the use of good management review procedures, sometimes coupled with data analytics techniques can help identify potential anomalous transactions or suspicious activity, said the report. In the UK, management review led to detection of only 22 percent of the UK frauds in the survey – globally it was even lower at 16 percent. 

The research also found that ‘red flag’ warnings such as an employee who rarely takes holidays or who leads an excessive lifestyle compared with their income or is secretive or unwilling to provide requested information; or a business area whose performance is not well understood but bucks the trend, are being dramatically missed or ignored by companies, particularly since the onset of the credit crunch.  

In 2011, some 56 percent of frauds had exhibited one or more prior red flags but only around 10 percent of those had been acted upon, compared to 2007 when 45 percent of frauds had exhibited one or more prior red flags and of those just more than half had been acted upon. 

The survey showed some interesting cultural and geographic differences in the features of the fraud cases investigated, across the different regions surveyed:

  • Men were found to be more likely perpetrators of detected fraud (87 percent) overall; however, women in the Americas (22 percent) and Asia Pacific (23 percent) are almost three times more likely to be involved in fraud than in EMA (8 percent).
  • The duration of fraud prior to detection is longest in Asia – on average five years – with 16 percent of frauds going undetected for 10 years or more, compared to 4.2 years in North America and 3.7 years in Western Europe.
  • The average loss varies by geography with Asia Pacific totalling an average of $1.4 million and $1.1 million in the Americas, with the lowest average transaction values being found in India and Eastern Europe.