As Stephanie Anderson ’89 and Bob Manz spoke with Business Honors students in a recent lecture and luncheon, a prevalent thought was evident in the students’ attentive eyesâ€””They have the coolest job ever.”
Anderson (Managing Director) and Manz (Director) work for AlixPartners, a global consulting firm that specializes in turnaround management. The two work in the forensic accounting sector, and Anderson admits that they often feel “like spies on a mission” with many of their job duties.
AlixPartners Managing Director Stephanie Anderson ’89 told students that employee fraud often starts out on a small scale. “But eventually, their perception of right and wrong swings farther and farther away from our perception of right and wrong.” (view more photos)
Anderson and Manz used a recent case their team handled as an example of what forensic accounting entails, describing the process as the “anatomy of a covert investigation.”
“The beginning of the process is pretty quick,” says Manz. “We get a phone call from the whistleblower, the allegations are presented, and we make immediate decisions on the next course of action.”
Anderson and Manz said after this first spark of a potential case, the team sifts through the allegation detailsâ€”examining the credibility of the company’s whistleblower and separating allegations that are “just noise” (inappropriate office relationships, bitterness towards management, etc.) from claims that are based on monetary fraud. As soon as Anderson’s team has probable cause of improper use of company resources, an office raid is conducted.
“Bob was the leader of the SWAT team,” Anderson jokes of Manz. Manz explained that in their recent case, he led a team of data collectors, IT specialists and even a locksmith to legally break into the company’s office one weekend and comb through electronic and paper documents. The team worked for more than 48 hours straight, collecting data and meticulously putting the office back to exactly how the employees had left it.
After the office raid is complete, the AlixPartners team members prepare the evidence for review, conduct interviews with the involved parties and present their findings to the auditors and lawyers.
With more than 20 years of experience in forensic accounting, Anderson says she has seen a common theme in employee fraudâ€” it starts small. “It’s just a little shift in their moral compass. But eventually, their perception of right and wrong swings farther and farther away from our perception of right and wrong.”
Anderson received her undergraduate in accounting from Texas State University before earning her MBA in business management from Texas A&M University in 1989. Prior to joining AlixPartners, Anderson held positions at Arthur Andersen and PricewaterhouseCoopers, working in countries such as Kuwait, Mexico and Russia. Manz , received an accounting degree from “that other school,” as Anderson describes it: the University of Texas at Austin.
Despite their accounting backgrounds, Anderson and Manz echoed many Mays business professors when they told the Business Honors students that they’ve got to learn sales, regardless of their major. “I never wanted to go into sales,” Anderson says, “But the further and further you climb up the ladder in a company, the more you have to learn how to sell your products or services in order to drive revenue.” â€¦Even in a forensic accounting firm.