High Security Accounting

FBI LogoWhen Brian Akins, assistant professor of accounting at the Jones School, got an email from a special agent at the FBI he thought someone was “messing with him.” But it was no joke. It was an invitation to present an accounting topic of interest to the CPAs at the bureau investigating white collar crime. Apparently the FBI employs a number of CPAs—special agents and support staff—as well as CFEs [certified fraud examiners].

This year, because of the sequester, the FBI was not holding their large annual meeting so the Houston office designed a smaller conference that included other offices from around the state. Akins’ mission, should he choose to accept it, was to present something that would help the FBI employees personally or professionally. 

“My final talk focused on how accounting academics identify both accrual and real earnings management—a manipulation of reported earnings—which types of firms engage in this behavior, and the motivations for doing so based on the results of research,” Akins said. Although he prepared the information as a presentation and not as he would a class, the agents were, nonetheless, engaged. A memorable question arose while he was explaining how academics identify firms where there is a higher probability of earnings management. One of the agents asked, “Can you give us a list?”

Though the presentation required much higher security than was typical—metal detectors, scanners, a badge and two escorts who followed him everywhere—there was one huge perk for Dr. Akins. “They gave me FBI caps for my two daughters, which was nice. It’s not often I have an opportunity to convince them that I do something cool.”