Art Prints for Law Firms

Wall Decor is an essential part of any room, office or lobby in all kinds of commercial space and residential buildings. The importance of choosing the perfect piece of wall art is a part of the entire effort one makes to decorate walls. We shall here discuss the benefits and steps while choosing art prints and framed art for office of a Law Firm.

While the decoration of any other office could accommodate several other fine art pieces, an office of a Law Firm or a Lawyer consulting from his home office has a several different situations than any other offices. In a law firm the entire section is decked up with books and material references used in the day to day chores of operation. Thus it could end up looking too mundane and boring being amongst piles of books all around.

In Order to give a more pleasing atmosphere to the employees and visitors at a Law firm, choosing the perfect wall art is of great significance. Probably art prints and posters are the only way for such offices to decorate their walls and make the atmosphere light and enjoyable. Thus placing some nice piece of art works is a trend amongst lawyers and consultants.

Since the atmosphere of the place has to look professional, the choice of art prints for such offices has to be clearly be very much simple yet have aesthetic value association to it. One must restrain from choosing too bright colours that end up taking a lot of attention from the visitors who shall look at the place for the first time. Thus while, minimal colour schemes look good, they should not end up making the room as boring as it already was.

A slightly clustered art work could make the other portion of the walls look more organized. This theory holds good as much as choosing wall art prints for a child’s room. No matter how professional an office could be, the chances of it remaining clustered could be as high as its business. Thus art prints from artist such as Jason Pollock or abstract art forms that maintain a low tone colours yet clustered looks would definitely look good in such a setting.

Choosing something for the walls that has international looks associated to it shall also be of high significance. Considering the well travelled image one would like to portray about its employees, one could choose international travel photography prints or vintage travel posters as part of the wall Decor in a law firm. The ever famous photography prints of Eifel Towers and Paris or Brooklyn Bridge are also a hit amongst such Decor themes.

Apart from these, choosing art prints of master artist such as Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Dali or Klimt shall always be a great options. I do not thing we have to say a lot about this, considering the benefits of such famous works hanging on the walls.

Spring Cleaning Your Office

As an office organizing consultant, I often see old computers, printers, and monitors taking up valuable space in both workspaces and storage areas, as well as drawers and boxes full of old cell phones, calculators, and other equipment that is no longer used. Although some business owners hold on to such items to use as a back-up, others do so because they don’t know how to properly dispose of them to ensure that the hazardous materials they contain don’t end up in a landfill site.

Keep in mind that because technology changes so rapidly, a piece of equipment which no longer meets your needs may well be of value to someone else. If your business upgrades equipment frequently, you may be able to resell it, however, due to depreciation, you’ll likely only recover a fraction of your original purchase price. You’re also unlikely to get rich stripping and selling the components to someone who needs replacement parts for an older computer, but it may be an option worth considering, as it will keep those items out of the landfill, and may make a big difference to the person or organization who can’t afford to replace equipment when it breaks down.

Another option to consider is the donation of surplus computers and other office equipment to a school or non-profit organization. You can locate organizations accepting donations at http://www.charityvillage.com or http://www.techsoup.com. Older machines can still be useful tools in programs where unemployed people gain job skills training by refurbishing or repairing such equipment, and in some cases, you may even receive a tax receipt for your donation.

Machines which are too old to be useful to anyone can be recycled, and a new industry of computer recycling is emerging. Before you decide to deal with one of these businesses, you should find out how they will dispose of your equipment, as apparently some recyclers simply ship it off to be disposed of in countries with less rigid environmental standards.

Some manufacturers have a program where they will reward you with a gift certificate or discount on a future purchase in exchange for returning your used computers or printer cartridges to them for recycling or donation to a charity, and you may wish to explore this option.

If you are going to sell or donate your computer to another person or organization, you must be sure to first clear all your personal and/or business data off the hard drive, to protect yourself and possibly your clients against identity theft, to protect your proprietary business information, and to ensure that your business doesn’t violate any privacy laws. Unless you are prepared to include original disks, documentation, and software licenses along with the computer, you should also remove any software from the computer before passing it on. Keep in mind that if you simply delete files or even format the hard drive, the data may still be present, and someone with moderate technical abilities will be able retrieve it. To make sure the data cannot be recovered, you need to write over the physical clusters by “wiping” the data. You can locate a program for this purpose by searching on http://www.download.com or http://www.tucows.com. If you’re disposing of a large number of computers, you’ll be glad to know that there is also an entire industry dedicated to securing and destroying data.

In addition to computers, there may be other surplus items in your office which could benefit a charitable organization or community group, including furniture and office supplies. Before you discard anything, take the time to explore donating and recycling options. By doing so, you’ll not only free up space in your office, but you’ll help the environment, and possibly make someone’s life a little better.

What Does A Law Firm Look Like?

After deciding to pursue a personal injury lawsuit, the very first visit to a law office can be a little intimidating. However, there are several common elements that most clients can expect from a law firm – regardless of size. These elements include the layout of the offices, the structure of the staff, and similar procedures. Just remember that an injury lawyer and his or her staff will always seek to make the client comfortable and to provide the best advice possible.

Layout of the Firm

While layouts for law firms will vary, there are some common elements. A smaller law firm will have a reception area where clients can relax until their appointed time. A larger law firm may a have a lobby where a receptionist might direct clients to the appropriate office. In general, an injury lawyer will have a private office as well as access to conference rooms. Styles will vary between firms, though most still prefer the more traditional, stately look.

General Staff Structure

Staffing for law offices also tends to be fairly standard. Most will use receptionist to greet and see to the comfort of clients. Legal secretaries and paralegals support the injury lawyer in conducting research and preparing documents. The lawyer is the only one who is authorized to provide legal advice, appear as counsel, sign pleadings, and determine legal fees. A partner is part owner in the law firm, while an associate is an employee.

Consultants

In some cases, a law firm will call in a consultant or an expert to assist with a personal injury lawsuit. Consultants aid the attorneys by filling in gaps in expertise or helping out when the work load is excessive. They may educate the attorney, provide background information, prepare written statements, clarify evidence, and provide expert testimony in court. Some consultants are lawyers who have developed expertise in trying specific cases.

Size of Law Firm

Keep in mind that the size of the law firm can have a huge impact on what clients’ should expect. Larger firms tend to have more support staff such as paralegals. In such a firm, the scope of the personal injury lawsuit will determine if the case is handled by an associate or a partner. Smaller firms have less support staff, but will generally still have a legal secretary and paralegals to assist with preparation of the case. Regardless of the size, clients should expect personal attention from all members of the law firm.

Upon Your Arrival

The first visit to a law firm can be a little scary, but it need not be. Upon arriving clients are asked to wait in either a reception area or are directed to the appropriate office where they will be made comfortable by a secretary. The meeting with the injury lawyer will take place in either a private office or conference room. After listening carefully to the facts of the case, he or she will either make a decision on whether to proceed or not, or may even request additional time to conduct some research.

While many clients may be nervous about a visit to an injury lawyer, it really is not necessary. A law office will do its best to make every client comfortable and to treat them with the utmost respect. Everyone in a law firm from the receptionist to the most senior partner wants clients to know that they care about their personal injury lawsuit and will make it a personal mission to help them.

NAFTA and the Management Consultant Dilemma

It is a common scene, repeated over and again at the various U.S.-Canada border posts. A young Canadian executive approaches an officer of the United States Department of Homeland Security, and hands her a small pile of documents prepared for him by the HR Manager of his prospective employer.

“I’m here to apply for a TN visa,” declares the applicant.

“In what category?”

“Uh… Management Consultant.”

The immigration officer glances at the documents with an air of distaste and tells the applicant to take a seat. Thirty minutes later the officer calls the applicant into an office and subjects him to a grueling hour of cross-examination.

“What is this?” demands the officer, shoving a piece of letterhead in his face.
The applicant peers at the document. “It’s a letter from the company that wants to hire me.”

“It’s too short and doesn’t describe a management problem,” says the officer, tossing aside the letter and pulling out another document. “How about this?”

“That’s my resume,” answers the applicant, his face turning red.

“Uh, huh…” says the officer. “Just what are you trying to pull here?”

“What do you mean?” asks the applicant.

“You’re no Management Consultant. You don’t have any management experience.”

And so on…

The result: Denial of the TN application. The reason: Either the position or the applicant do not qualify for the Management Consultant designation. The consequences: Lost time, lost money, loss of a potentially valuable employee, loss of a lucrative job opportunity, and humiliation.

The Management Consultant Category – An Incorrectly Perceived Loophole
As most people involved in HR Management are aware, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has simplified the placement of certain Canadian professionals into high-demand jobs in the United States. As long as the candidate fits into the cookie-cutter professional categories listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 of the NAFTA, the interested company is able to avoid the longer processing times and higher fees associated with the H-1B visa.

Most of the NAFTA categories require at least a bachelor’s degree. And as long as the candidate can prove he or she has the required education, approval of a TN visa is virtually assured. For example, a Canadian Engineer with a bachelor’s degree should have no trouble qualifying for a position as an Engineer with a U.S. company.

A few NAFTA categories, however, allow for the substitution of work experience in place of a bachelor’s degree. One of these is the Management Consultant category, which allows “five years of experience as a management consultant, or five years experience in a field of specialty related to the consulting agreement” to substitute for a missing bachelor’s degree.

Unfortunately, the Management Consultant category is incorrectly perceived by many HR Managers as a sort of “loophole” in the immigration law which allows them to place well-qualified candidates who have not completed a formal degree program, but who are otherwise qualified for the position offered because of their experience in the subject field.

Thus, HR Managers frequently send non-degreed persons such as computer professionals with no management experience to the border, allegedly to accept a job in the States as a “Management Consultant”; or they send non-degreed candidates with management experience to the border, with the intent of placing them in long-term management positions with U.S. companies. Applications such as these are invariably doomed to failure.

Why the Management Consultant Designation is So Difficult to Obtain

USCIS Free Trade Officers are well aware of the misperceptions that exist regarding the Management Consultant category. They adjudicate and deny countless bogus TN applications in this category on a daily basis. So whenever someone presents at a U.S.-Canada border with a TN application seeking admission through the Management Consultant category, the officer’s guard immediately goes up.

While it is difficult for the officer to deny a TN visa when the applicant has a university degree, it is fairly easy to question whether a non-degreed applicant’s experience is “relevant” to the Management Consultant position offered. It is important to realize that U.S. immigration law gives its Free Trade Officers complete and unfettered discretion to make a decision on a NAFTA visa application. Denials are not appealable. So, when they have an opportunity to use this discretion, they do so…with a vengeance.

Make no mistake: the Free Trade Officer will go through every word of a TN application, compare the applicant’s CV with her employment-based reference letters to look for contradictions and analyze the company’s cover letter and its financial statements. Finally, the officer will thoroughly grill the applicant with respect to her alleged prior experience and her proposed duties with the new company. Most applications in the Management Consultant category do not hold up under this type of scrutiny.

So, What Exactly is a Management Consultant Anyway?

Contrary to the belief of most HR Managers, a “Management Consultant’ (for purposes of U.S. immigration law) is not a manager. A “Management Consultant” is a consultant to management hired by an organization to help solve a particular short-term management problem. Free Trade Officers view these consultants as “hired guns”: they are hired to solve a particular problem, and then they must get out. Offers of company benefits such as retirement and 401K plans, stock options, and life insurance are inconsistent with this view. These types of benefits are all trappings of a permanent employee, not a short-term temporary employee.

Therefore, at minimum, the company’s cover letter to the INS should state with particularity the management problem to be solved, the reason for the short-term need for an outside consultant, how the applicant is qualified to solve the problem, and the terms of compensation. The application should also include a detailed CV which documents at least five full years of relevant experience, as well as detailed reference letters from all past employers consistent with the CV. Contradictions between any of the above documents will be duly noted by the Free Trade Officer, and will likely result in the denial of a TN visa.

The Effect of Past Denials

All is not lost if a TN visa is denied by a Free Trade Officer. That same complete and unfettered discretion wielded by one Free Trade Officer empowers the next officer to re-consider an application as if presented for the first time, if the officer wishes to do so. Because of this, it is entirely possible for an applicant to be refused by one officer at Niagara Falls in the morning and admitted by another officer at Pearson International Airport in the afternoon, without any change to the application However, our firm does not recommend the latter approach, because some officers will perceive the same-day reapplication as an attempt to play the system.

Our firm has successfully assisted a myriad of individuals who have been refused once, twice or even three times. (Of course, the more times one has been refused, the more difficult the case becomes.) Our task as experienced immigration lawyers is the same in all of these cases: a.) Complete evaluation of the Applicant and the Proposed Employment; b.) Selection of the Proper Visa Category; and c.) Assembly of the most USCIS-Friendly Visa Application Possible.

Some Recommendations

It is always better for all parties concerned if, instead of trying to handle important immigration matters on their own, HR Managers and potential TN applicants take the time to consult with an immigration professional prior to applying for a visa. The savings in time, money and frustration are well worth the investment. However, if they insist on handling these delicate cases on their own, it is helpful to keep the following in mind:

1. A Management Consultant is a hired gun-a consultant to management hired to solve a short-term management problem;

2. A Management Consultant should not be compensated over and above the base salary;

3. A non-degreed applicant must have a minimum of five complete years of verifiable experience as a consultant to management or in a field of specialty related to the consulting agreement. Make sure you have the documents to prove all five years;

4. There should be no discrepancies whatsoever between any of the documents presented to the Free Trade Officer;

5. The applicant should be prepared to answer intelligently, and in detail, the officer’s questions regarding: a.) the applicant’s past experience, and b.) the management problem he or she is being hired to solve;

6. A TN application must be made in conjunction with an “entry”. So, the applicant should not be instructed to drive to the border in advance to see if the officer will issue the visa; and finally

7. Always remember that Free Trade Officers have complete and unfettered discretion to rule on NAFTA cases. Therefore, the applicant should present with as deferential an attitude as possible.

Forensic Accounting – a New Paradigm For Niche Consulting

OBJECTIVES OF WRITING THIS ARTICLE: Forensic accounting(F.A.) has come into limelight due to rapid increase in financial frauds and white-collar crimes. But it is largely untrodden area in India.The integration of accounting, auditing and investigative skills creates the speciality know as F.A.The opportunities for the Forensic Accountants are growing fast;they are being engaged in public practice and are being employed by insurance companies, banks, police forces, government agencies etc.This article seeks to examine the meaning and nature, activities and services rendered, core knowledge and personal skills required for forensic accounting as a specialized field in accountancy profession. Indeed there is a future in F.A. as a separate niche consulting.

The lack of respect and belief in India’s law enforcement agencies and the rate at which white-collar crimes have increased has prompted the development of Forensic Accounting in India. The fraud detecting agencies seems to lack time and devotion needed for detecting and prevention of errors and fraud. According to a large global accounting firm, the market is sufficiently big enough to maintain an unit devoted entirely towards “forensic accounting”. Many large as well as small accounting firms as well as the tiny firms have inculcated or rather developed separate forensic accounting departments.

We were of the belief that detection and prevention of frauds or white-collar crimes is part of conventional accounting function. It was thought that the frauds, both internal as well as external has be to detected by the auditors through their periodic audit. Now it is crystal clear that auditors can only check for the compliance of a company’s books to generally accepted accounting principles, auditing standards and company policies. Hence the need was felt to detect the frauds in companies that are suspected to be engaged in fraudulent transactions. This field of accounting is known as “forensic accounting”.

The litmus test of investigation, first introduced by the ever great Sherlock-Homes(considered by many as the father of Forensic Accounting) is perhaps the first ever application of forensic accounting. Though, the contribution of the other few great historians to the field of forensic accounting cannot be overlooked. They used various tricks to investigate various crimes.

F.A. is a specialized a area of accounting practice that describes engagements which result from actual or anticipated disputes or litigation. The word “forensic” means “suitable for use in court”. The forensic accountants have to keep in mind this statement while they have to work or chalk out their programme. The F.A. work is tailor made according to the situation and need. The gathering of information and evidences is done according to the need and situation. We can say, it is customized according to the situation. The forensic-accountants give expert evidence at the ultimate trial. All the modern medium-sized as well as the large-sized accounting firms have specialized forensic accounting departments. Within these firms there may be specialized forensic accounting departments. Within these groups their may be further sub-specializations. Various sub-specializations include insurance claims, personal injury claims, fraud detection, construction or royalty audits. Nearly 40 percent of the top 100 US accounting firms are expanding their forensic and fraud services, according to Accounting Today. Now if we consider this data as significant then we can say that the total contribution of forensic accounting to the total revenue of the C.A. firms would be highly significant in the years to come. Under rising instances of frauds and litigation and flourishing businesses these services are considered to be very significant as they are rendered at a very competitive price.

The forensic accountants utilize the various information relating the business, utilizes financial reporting systems, various accounting and auditing standards and procedures, investigative techniques and litigation processes and procedure to perform their work. By acting as advisors to audit committees and assisting in investment analyst research, they are playing more “proactive” risk reduction roles.This is possible by designing and performing extended procedures as part of the statutory audit. The objectives of such an accounting include measurement of losses caused by an auditor due to his negligence, to look into the matter whether their has been any embezzlement of cash, the amount, necessity of criminal proceedings, computation of asset values in a divorced proceeding.

The primary approach technique of forensic accounting is explanatory analysis(cause and effect)of the phenomena-including the discovery of deception(if any), and its effects -introduced into an accounting system field. The primary methodology employed by the forensic accountants is the verification of the objective. They are trained to deal with real world business and do have the sufficient expertise to look beyond(behind) the numbers. The scope of the forensic accountants are growing at a rapid pace. The increase in their work opportunities have been accelerated due to the fall of the Enron corporation and the collapse of the American Twin Towers.

This has led to increase in the demand for American forensic accountants. So as far India is concerned, formation of Serious Fraud Investigation Office(SIFO) is a landmark creation so far as forensic accountants are concerned. Failure of regulators to track security scams, increasing cyber crimes, chain of cooperative banks bursting -all point to the ever increasing need for forensic accountants. Our understanding of the need for forensic accountants is immaterial here. In India due to the growing number of frauds the need for forensic accountants is ever increasing. The regulatory and administrative agencies will put pressure for greater demand of forensic practices. This has been initiated due to the changing nature of Indian and International accounting.Auditing and assurance standards also confirm this. A change in the curriculum can be initiated if the written exams and practical industrial training are boosted to show the “new knowledge base and skill-set” required by the professional accountants in the new era. It is therefore recommended that the “forensic accounting and auditing” be introduced as a paper in the various professional examinations conducted by the various accounting bodies in India. Unfortunately forensic accounting is largely an unexplored area as far as India is concerned. The chartered Accountants(CAs) deal with such cases in an irregular fashion. In the western counter-part(countries), the Lawyers, police, insurance companies, government and regulatory bodies, banks, courts and business communities are increasingly utilizing the services of the forensic accountants.The accountants and the auditors must have the skills and expertise to venture into the emerging field of forensic accounting.

What Is Forensic Accounting? The growing needs of corporations has changed the definition of forensic accounting. As per Bologna and Indquist, “the application of financial skills and an investigative mentality to unresolved issues, conducted within the context of rules of evidence.It is a new emerging field that encompasses financial expertise, fraud knowledge, and a sound knowledge and understanding of business reality and the working of the legal system.”It means that the forensic accounting should be skilled not only in financial accounting but also internal control systems, the legal matters, other institutional requirements, investigative blend of mind and interpersonal skills.

According to AICPA: “Forensic accounting is the application of accounting principles, theories, and discipline to facts or hypotheses at issues in a legal dispute and encompasses every branch of accounting knowledge: ‘ Similarly, forensic accounting is defined by Horty as:
“The science that deals with the relation and application of finance, accounting, tax and auditing knowledge to analyze, investigate, inquire, test and examine matters in civil law, criminal law and jurisprudence in an attempt to obtain the truth from which to render an expert opinion.”
In simple words, forensic accounting includes the use of accounting, auditing as well as investigative skills to assist in legal matters.It comprises of two major components: litigation services, that recognizes the role of an accountant as an expert consultant and investigative services, that uses a forensic accountant, s skills and may require possible court-room testimony.
Investigation of theft and defalcation of corporate and individual assets are part of legal matters.They use their education as well as experience to discuss the facts, patterns of the theft or misappropriation.Business accounting systems are reviewed by the forensic accountants.They suggest ways and means to solve and improve the internal control and internal accounting system.This is adopted to prevent theft and fraud. Because of their expert knowledge and educational background and experience their(forensic accountants) work is elevated to a new height.

Forensic accountants do not contest in cases.They act as fact finding devices, try trt to seek the real truth from the hidden facts.They conduct their work in an unbiased and objective manner.They need legal knowledge, expertise, training and experience to perform their work in an effective and real manner.Extensive knowledge in the field of commerce, legal, accounting as well an investigative blend of mind is needed to perform the work in a proper fashion.Expertise in litigation support and testimony in courts of law are also prerequisites of the forensic accountants.This is due to the fact that their work would many times be used in a court of law.The valuation of damages due to criminal and civil wrong-doings need to be done with perfection and for that reason knowledge of business valuation theory is the most essential.

What exactly do the Forensic Accountants perform? Answer: They are trained to deal with real life business situations and are trained to look beyond the numbers.
Analysis, interpretation and summarization of complex financial and business related issues are prominent characteristics of this accounting/auditing profession. Familiarity with legal concepts and procedures is a must.Insurance companies, public practice, banks, police forces and government agencies are major employers of forensic accountants.
The various field of work encompassing the arena of a forensic accountant can be stated in points format as follows:

1) Financial evidence investigation and analysis.
2) Development of computerized software to help in the analysis and presentation of financial evidence.
3) Sharing their findings in the form of reports, slide shows or exhibits and documents collected.
4) To support trial evidence they prepare visual slides, assist in legal proceedings, including testifying in courts as an expert witness.
If we want to say or rather point out the role performed by the forensic accountants in a nutshell, we can say as follows:

Measurement or to quantify the impact of lost earnings. Such as construction delays, stolen trade secrets, insurance disputes, damage/loss estimates, malpractice claims, employee theft, loss of profit, financial solvency reports, disturbance damages, loss of goodwill, compensation losses suffered in expropriation determination, assessment of the potential business compensation costs and providing consultation on business defalcation minimization. Lease default damages, breach of contract, business interruptions, breaches of shareholders and partnership agreements, reconstruction of accounting records,
Investigation of misappropriation, assistance in establishing ownership and division of assets, commercial damages, professional negligence cases, partnership disputes, expert evidence, fair value or fair market value and personal injury damages are included in commercial damages. Tax advocacy, compliance and review of financial statements, tax reporting and tax planning in such areas as income as estate matters are included in tax matters. Analysis, interpretation, summarization, presentation of complex financial and issues relating to the business for investigation is the role of a forensic accountant.
They carry out investigative accounting and provide litigation support.

The services rendered by the forensic accountants are in great demand in the following areas:

1) Fraud detection where employees commit Fraud:
Where the employee indulges in fraudulent activities:
Where the employees are caught to have committed fraud the forensic accountant tries to locate any assets created by them out of the funds defalcated, then try interrogate them and try to find out the hidden truth.

2)Criminal Investigation: Matters relating to financial implications the services of the forensic accountants are availed of. The report of the accountants are considered in preparing and presentation as evidence.

3) Outgoing Partner’s settlement:
If the outgoing partner is not happy about his settlement he can employ a forensic accountant who will correctly assess his dues(assets) as well as his liabilities correctly.
4)Cases relating to professional negligence:
Professional negligence cases are taken up by the forensic accountants.
Non-conformation to Generally Accepted Accounting Standards(GAAS) or non compliance to auditing practices or ethical codes of any profession they are needed to measure the loss due to such professional negligence or shortage in services.

5) Arbitration service: Forensic accountants render arbitration and mediation services for the business community, since they undergo special training in the area of alternative dispute resolution.

6) Facilitating settlement regarding motor vehicle accident: As the forensic accountant is well acquainted with intricacies of laws relating to motor vehicles, and other relevant laws in force, his services become indispensable in measuring economic loss when a vehicle meets with an accident.

7) Settlement of insurance claims: Insurance companies engage forensic accountants to have an accurate assessment of claims to be settled. Similarly, policyholders seek the help of a forensic accountant when they need to challenge the claim settlement as worked out by the insurance companies. A forensic accountant handles the claims relating to consequential loss policy, property loss due to various risks, fidelity insurance and other types of insurance claims.

8) Dispute settlement: Business firms engage forensic accountants to handle contract disputes, construction claims, product liability claims, infringement of patent and trade marks cases, liability arising from breach of contracts and so on.

9) Matrimonial dispute cases: Forensic accountants entertain cases pertaining to matrimonial disputes wherein their role is merely confined to tracing, locating and evaluating any form of asset involved.

Core Knowledge Of Forensic Accountants:
A forensic accountant is expected to be a specialist in accounting and financial systems. Yet, as companies continue to grow in size and complexity, uncovering fraud requires a forensic accountant to become proficient in an ever- increasing number of professional skills and competencies. Here are some of the broad areas of useful expertise for a forensic accountant:

” An in-depth knowledge of financial statements and the ability to critically analyse them. These skills help forensic accountants to uncover abnormal patterns in accounting information and recognise their source.
” A thorough understanding of fraud schemes, including but not limited to asset misappropriations, money laundering, bribery, and corruption.
” The ability to comprehend the internal control systems of corporations, and to set up a control system that assesses risks, achieves management objectives, informs employees of their control responsibilities, and monitors the quality of the programme so that corrections and changes can be made.
” Proficiency in computer and knowledge of network systems. These skills help forensic accountants to conduct investigations in the area of e-banking and computerised accounting systems.
” Knowledge of psychology in order to understand the impulses behind criminal behaviour and to set up fraud prevention programmes that motivate and encourage employees.
” Interpersonal and communication skills, which aid in disseminating information about the company’s ethical policies and help forensic accountants to conduct interviews and obtain crucially needed information.
” Thorough knowledge of company.s governance policies and the laws that regulate these policies.
” Command of criminal and civil law, as well as, of the legal system and court procedures.

Personal Skills Required:
So what does it take to become a forensic accountant? In addition to the specialised knowledge about the techniques of finding out the frauds, one needs patience and an analytical mindset. One has to look beyond the numbers and grasp the substance of the situation. There is a need for the same basic accounting skills that it takes to become a good auditor plus the ability to pay attention to the smallest detail, analyse data thoroughly, think creatively, possess common business sense, be proficient with a computer, and have excellent communication skills. A “sixth”sense that can be used to reconstruct details of past accounting transactions is also beneficial. A photographic memory helps when trying to visualise and reconstruct these past events. The forensic accountant also needs the ability to maintain his composure when detailing these events on the witness stand. Finally, a forensic accountant should be insensitive to personal attacks on his professional credibility. A fraud accountant (as forensic accountants are sometimes called) should also observe and listen carefully. By this, you can improve your ability to detect lies whether they involve fraud or not. This is so because”not all liars are fraudsters, but all fraudsters are liars”(Wells).

According to a forensic accounting expert, “the traits of a forensic accountant could be compared to a well-baked pizza. The base of forensic accounting is accounting knowledge. Size and the extent of baking decide the quality of the pizza. A middle layer is a dispersed knowledge of auditing, internal controls, risk assessment and fraud detection. It is like the spread of the cheese in pizza. The toppings of this pizza area basic understanding of the legal environment. The legal environment is essential in order to support the litigations. The cherry on the toppings of the pizza is a strong set of communication skills, both written and oral. It is just the beautification part. Perfect combination of the pizza base, cheese spread and good toppings makes the pizza delicious and the of company’s the laws that Forensic Auditor perfects. It is a combination that will be in demand for as long as human nature exists.”

In addition to these personal characteristics, accountants must meet several additional requirements to become successful forensic accountants, say a Certification, acknowledging his competence. One can learn forensic accounting by obtaining a diploma given by Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) in the US. Indian chapter of ACFE offers the course based on the white-collared crimes prevalent in US, based on their laws. However, there is no formal body that provides formal education of the frauds in India. Besides the formal certificate, one can deepen one’s knowledge and sharpen one’s skills in forensic accounting by undergoing training under an experienced forensic accountant, participating in various international conferences, reading relevant journals, books and other literature on forensic accounting.

To combat the frauds effectively one needs the active support of government at every stage. There are three-four such agencies in India, which are dedicated to the mission of combating frauds. Serious Fraud Office looks into violations of Income Tax, FEMA, RBI Act, etc.; CBI (Economic Office Wing) deals with big financial frauds; Central Vigilance Commission deals with corruption. These are the major government agencies that combat frauds of different types. Unfortunately, there is no specialised education provided by any of the Universities in the country. Recently, TCS has also come out with software to combat money laundering and Subex Systems have designed software to combat the telecom frauds. Thus, combating the frauds with software has started picking up in India, with few big companies like ACL and IDEA, joining the race.

The Need For Niche Consulting:
The CPA Vision Statement states: “The CPAs are trusted professionals who enable people and organisations to shape their future. Combining insight with integrity, CPAs deliver value by: (a) communicating the total picture with clarity and objectivity, (b) translating corn plex information into critical knowledge, (c) anticipating and creating opportunities, and (d) developing pathways that transform vision into reality1 It reflects the trend towards providing a broader range of assurance services. However, recent corporate accounting scandals and the resultant outcry for transparency and honesty in reporting have given rise to two disparate yet logical outcomes. First, forensic accounting skills have become crucial in untangling the complicated accounting manoeuvres that have obfuscated financial statements. Second, public demand for change and subsequent regulatory action has transformed corporate governance. Increasingly, company officers and directors are under ethical and legal scrutiny. Both trends have the common goal of responsibly addressing investors’ concerns about the financial reporting system. Indeed, there is a future in forensic accounting as a separate”niche” consulting area in India. The need to specialise, otherwise known as Niche Consulting, is imperative to practising accountants because the fast-paced developments in business thereby demand specialised knowledge and skills. While a majority of CAs have excellent analytical skills, they need to acknowledge that ‘forensic’ services require ‘specialised’ training as well as real-life ‘practical’ corporate experience. There is a need for specialised information, not just audit and tax service. What clients seem to want are people with unique sets of skills and experiences. With the maturing of the audit business, and the rapid development of technology that makes existing services low cost and cheap, it appears that it is the right time now to acquire those unique skills. To help practitioners move into ‘niche’ consulting, some professional organisations in the US have concluded that: “Future success for the profession depends, in part, on how the public perceives the ability of CPAs. New efforts in consulting, specialisation and understanding global business practices and strategies are considered crucial. We go out into the niche market, examining our strengths first. We go where the action is, only then we know we can adequately service our clients and make money doing it.” One area where ‘niche’ consulting is becoming the global trend is in “Forensic Accounting and Auditing’ But the major question facing the Indian accountancy profession is: Are we ready to plunge to where the challenging action is?

Forensic Accounting In India:
It is in an infancy state in India.It is still an untrodden area in India.But due to ever increasing cases of bank & cyber-frauds its growing importance cannot be denied.
One immediate landmark creation is “Forensic Research Foundation”.They provide support for investigation of fraud.They publish one bi-monthly journal named as “White Crimes”.It relates to forensic and economic crimes. Another international organization named as KPNG has set up investigation detection centre in India.. Networks Limited, a Delhi based organization, working in the similar field, they are also trying to innovate ways and means to detect financial irregularities and crimes in India.Serious Investigation Fraud Offices(SIFO), has been established in India for the same reason, i.e. detection and prevention of economic irregularities and crimes. The need for such bodies and the importance of Forensic Accountants have been highlighted by L.N.Roy Committee.Lenin Parekh Committee has also expressed the view that one “fraud detection committee”need to be established. The main aim of such boards should be to prevent the interest of the stakeholders.

Conclusion:
Forensic accounting in India has come to limelight only recently due to rapid increase in white-collar crimes and the belief that our law enforcement agencies do not have sufficient expertise or the time needed to uncover frauds. A large global accounting firm believes the market is sufficiently large to support an independent unit devoted strictly to ‘forensic’ accounting. All of the larger accounting firms, as well as, many medium-sized and boutique firms have recently created forensic accounting departments.

Forensic accounting, in fact, integrates accounting, auditing, and investigative skills to conduct an examination into a company’s financial statements. Broad-based knowledge (within the themes listed above) is crucial to the success of entry-level forensic accountants. Because forensic accounting is relatively a new area of study, a series of working definitions and sharing of corporate experiences should be undertaken and encouraged to ensure a common understanding. Indeed, there is great future in forensic accounting as a separate”niche” consulting.

While the forensic accounting and auditing practice had commenced in the US as early as ‘1995, the seed of this specialisation has yet to take off in India. Forensic accountants are only dealing with financial implications of the cases entrusted to them and not engaging in auditing exercise. On account of global competition, the accounting profession must convince the marketplace that it has the “best-equipped” professionals to perform such services.

Forensic accountants are also increasingly playing more ‘proactive’ risk reduction roles by designing and performing extended procedures as part of the statutory audit, acting as advisors to audit committees, and assisting in investment analyst research.

While majority of CAs have excellent analytical skills, they need to acknowledge that ‘forensic’ services require ‘specialised’ training as well as real-life ‘practical’ corporate experience.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/1757106

Why You Should Never Make Statements To Police Officers Without An Attorney

Many students, enrolled in a bona fide Personal Protection Class, are usually surprised to learn that they are being taught to not make any statements to police officers – without consulting with an attorney – in the aftermath of a self-defense encounter.

From a student’s perspective, he is an innocent actor in an unscripted scene of violence in a horror film. Accordingly, he believes that in his role of law-abiding citizen, he should be fully cooperative with the law enforcement officers who were summoned on-location to investigate the defensive shooting. However, he couldn’t be more wrong, as it is probably the worse thing he could possibly do.

Police Officers Are Not Your Friend At The Scene Of A Crime

When law enforcement officers arrive at the scene of a self-defense encounter, their job is not to calm and comfort victims. Nor is it to protect the Constitutionally protected rights of the person, who just moments before, was in a life-or-death battle. Professional police officers have a job to do and will perform it admirably: secure the scene, protect evidence, interview witnesses, and arrest suspects.

In all likelihood, if a citizen is involved in a self-defense encounter he will be arrested. Since many law-abiding folks have not had that experience and don’t wish to readily acquire it, they may wish to fully cooperate with the investigating officers to prevent that from happening. The dirty little secret, that the police won’t tell you when they show up, is that no matter what the victims say, he is probably going to be arrested anyway as a formality. Thus, cooperation offers no benefit to the victim.

Furthermore, providing a statement to the police is in many cases not needed for them to figure out what transpired before they arrived. There are a variety of clues present that should provide a working theory: broken windows, pry marks, kicked in doors, cartridge casing locations, blood splatter marks, and etc. The police are experts at deducing what happened. For all practical purposes, they don’t need a statement from the victim to do their job. Moreover, it doesn’t make the victim look guilty either.

Making A Statement Without An Attorney Is A Legal Suicide Attempt

Victims will be pressed by the attending police officers to make a statement about the encounter. A variety of approaches and tactics may be used to acquire it. It is completely legal for police officers to lie to victims, play psychological games, and make promises they can’t legitimately make and keep in an effort to get an official account of what transpired.

In the aftermath of a life threatening encounter, victims may experience a variety of scientifically proven mental and physiological effects: time distortion, memory suppression, auditory exclusion, tunnel vision, adrenaline rush, elevated blood pressure, and etc. This is not the optimum time for a victim to recover from his life-and-death battle and to provide an official report. In fact, a statement made at this point may not match up with the evidence at the scene, even if the victim behaved lawfully.

The police will not inform the victim of the legal boundaries for a self-defense case. So, if a victim provides a statement that does not mirror the law by touching upon all required elements in the law, the victim will be arrested and charged with a crime. Later, when the victim has recovered and has retained the services of an attorney to provide a revised version of the story that argues how he did act lawfully, the police will assert that the story has materially changed because of the possibility of jail time.

Bottom Line:

In essence, you only get one time to make a first statement to the authorities in the aftermath of a self-defense encounter. Do it correctly at the scene under almost impossible circumstances or take your time to document it within the framework of the law with the advice of a legal professional. The difference in the results could be as stark as spending only a weekend in jail awaiting bond or spending the rest of your life behind bars because you gambled on your future.

Mortgage Fraud Schemes in South Carolina – A Review For SC Criminal Attorneys, Lawyers & Law Firms

Mortgage fraud is problem that has reached epidemic proportions in the United States (US) in general and in South Carolina (SC) in particular. The white collar practitioner should be aware that mortgage fraud is generally investigated by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), although other agencies routinely assist the FBI and/or take the lead in investigating a case. Some of the other federal agencies which investigate mortgage fraud crimes for criminal prosecution include, but are not limited to, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigative Division (IRS-CID), United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), U.S. Secret Service (USSS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-Office of the Inspector General (HUD-OIG), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-Office of the Inspector General (FDIC-OIG), the Department of Veterans Affairs-Office of the Inspector General (DVA-OIG) and U.S. Bankruptcy Trustees.

The FBI works extensively with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). FinCEN is a bureau of the United States Department of the Treasury, created in 1990, that collects and analyzes information about financial transactions in order to fight financial crimes, including mortgage fraud, money laundering and terrorist financing. The FinCEN network is a means of bringing people and information together to combat complex criminal financial transactions such as mortgage fraud and money laundering by implementing information sharing among law enforcement agencies and its other partners in the regulatory and financial communities. South Carolina lawyers can keep abreast of mortgage fraud developments by visiting the respective websites of the FBI and FinCEN.

In South Carolina, mortgage fraud is generally prosecuted by federal prosecutors. The United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) and the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Criminal Fraud Section handle the criminal prosecutions of mortgage fraud cases. The USAO in South Carolina has about 50 prosecutors in the state, and has offices in Charleston, Columbia, Florence, and Greenville. In the investigation stage, a person with possible knowledge or involvement in a mortgage fraud may be considered a witness, subject or target of the investigation. A subject is generally a person the prosecutor believes may have committed a mortgage fraud crime, whereas a target is a person the prosecutor believes has committed a crime such as mortgage fraud and the prosecutor has substantial evidence to support a criminal prosecution. Criminal prosecutions of mortgage fraud felony cases are usually initiated through the federal grand jury process. A federal grand jury consists of between 16 and 23 grand jurors who are presented evidence of alleged criminal activity by the federal prosecutors with the aid of law enforcement agents, usually FBI special agents. At least 12 members of the grand jury must vote in favor of an indictment charging mortgage fraud. South Carolina criminal defense lawyers are not allowed entry into the grand jury at any time, and prosecutors rarely fail to obtain an indictment after presentment of their case to the grand jury.

Often targets of a mortgage fraud prosecution are invited by the prosecution to avail themselves of the grand jury process and to testify in front of the grand jury. Generally, a South Carolina criminal defense attorney should not allow a named target of a federal criminal mortgage fraud investigation to testify before the grand jury. Subjects and witnesses in a mortgage fraud prosecution are often subpoenaed by the prosecutors to testify before the grand jury. A criminal defense attorney should likewise generally advise a witness or subject to not testify if any part of the testimony would possibly incriminate the client. With respect to a federal mortgage fraud investigation, when a citizen receives a target letter, subject letter, or a subpoena to testify before the grand jury, or is contacted in person by a law enforcement officer such as an FBI special agent, a South Carolina criminal lawyer who is experienced in federal prosecutions should be consulted immediately. One of the biggest mistakes a mortgage fraud target, subject or witness can make is to testify before the grand jury or speak to criminal investigators prior to consulting with a criminal defense attorney. The 5th Amendment to the Constitution allows any person, including a target, subject or witness in a mortgage fraud prosecution, to not incriminate himself or herself. Interestingly, there is no 5th Amendment protection for a corporation. Obviously, if a defendant has been indicted or arrested for a federal mortgage fraud crime in South Carolina, an experienced SC mortgage fraud lawyer should be consulted immediately.

An important practice tip for South Carolina attorneys representing clients who have decided to testify before the grand jury is to accompany the client to the grand jury court room. While not allowed in the grand jury proceeding itself, the attorney can wait just outside of the court room and the client is allowed to consult with the attorney for any question which is posed to the client by prosecutors or grand jurors. This is an effective way to help minimize any potential damaging statements by the client, and a great way to learn the focus of the prosecutor’s case. This approach makes it much easier to gain insights from the client as to the questions asked during the grand jury proceeding as opposed to debriefing the client after a sometimes long and grueling question and answer session which can last for hours.

South Carolina white collar criminal attorneys need to be aware of the types of mortgage fraud that are prevalent in the state in order to effectively identify and represent clients who are involved in mortgage fraud activities. Consumers need to be aware of the variations of mortgage fraud so that they do not unwittingly become a part of a scheme to defraud a bank or federally backed lending institution. Federal mortgage fraud crimes in South Carolina are punishable by up to 30 years imprisonment in federal prison or $1,000,000 fine, or both. It is unlawful and fraudulent for a person to make a false statement regarding his or her income, assets, debt, or matters of identification, or to willfully overvalue any land or property, in a loan or credit application for the purpose of influencing in any way the action of a federally backed financial institution.

Some of the applicable federal criminal statutes which may be charged in mortgage fraud indictments include, but are not limited to, the following:

• 18 U.S.C. § 1001 – Statements or entries generally
• 18 U.S.C. § 1010 – HUD and Federal Housing Administration Transactions
• 18 U.S.C. § 1014 – Loan and credit applications generally
• 18 U.S.C. § 1028 – Fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents
• 18 U.S.C. § 1341 – Frauds and swindles by Mail
• 18 U.S.C. § 1342 – Fictitious name or address
• 18 U.S.C. § 1343 – Fraud by wire
• 18 U.S.C. § 1344 – Bank Fraud
• 18 U.S.C. § 2 – Aiding and Abetting
• 18 U.S.C. § 371 – Conspiracy
• 42 U.S.C. § 408(a) – False Social Security Number

While states experiencing the highest number of mortgage fraud cases are California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, the state of South Carolina has seen a huge rise in the number of mortgage fraud cases being prosecuted by the USAO, DOJ and FBI.

In South Carolina, a disproportionate number of mortgage fraud cases have occurred in the coastal region. Some of the South Carolina counties with high concentrations of mortgage fraud or bank fraud cases include Horry County, Florence County, Georgetown County, Charleston County, Berkeley County, Dorchester County, Beaufort County, Colleton County and Jasper County. Some of the South Carolina cities with high concentrations of mortgage fraud or bank fraud cases include Little River, North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Georgetown, Awendaw, Mt. Pleasant, Charleston, North Charleston, James Island, Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, Folly Beach, Kiawah Island, Hollywood, Ravenel, Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head Island. The reason for the increased number of mortgage fraud and bank fraud criminal prosecutions in these areas is because large number of condominium, condotels, townhouse and similar real estate projects which proliferated in these areas. These real estate developments were popular in areas close to the waterfront and bank lenders were willing to loan money at a furious pace due to a perceived enormous demand.

There are a wide variety of schemes, artifices and conspiracies to perpetrate mortgage frauds and band frauds with which the South Carolina white collar criminal defense lawyer and consumers must be familiar. Typical mortgage fraud schemes or conspiracies that have occurred in South Carolina and elsewhere throughout the United States include the following:

Air Loans. The air loan mortgage fraud scheme is a loan obtained on a nonexistent property or for a nonexistent borrower. Professional scam artists often work together to create a fake borrower and a fake chain of title on a nonexistent property. They then obtain a title and property insurance binder to present to the bank. The scam artists often set up fake phone banks and mailboxes in order to create fake employment verifications and W-2s, home addresses and borrower telephone numbers. They may establish accounts for payments, and maintain custodial accounts for escrows. Phone banks are used to impersonate an employer, an appraiser, a credit agency, a law firm, an accountant, etc…, for bank verification purposes. The air loan scam artists obtain the loan proceeds and no property is ever bought or sold, and the bank is left with an unpaid loan that never had any collateral.

Appraisal fraud. Appraisal fraud is often an integral part of most mortgage fraud scams and occurs when a dishonest appraiser fraudulently appraises a property by inflating its value. In most cases, after the seller receives the closing proceeds, he will pay a kickback to the appraiser as a quid pro quo for the fake appraisal. In most cases, the borrower doesn’t make any loan payments and the house or property goes into foreclosure.

Equity Skimming. In an equity skimming mortgage fraud scheme, an investor often uses a straw buyer, false income documents, and false credit reports to obtain a mortgage loan in the straw buyer’s name. After the closing, the straw buyer signs the property over to the investor in a quit claim deed which relinquishes all rights to the property and provides no guaranty to title. The investor does not make any mortgage payments, and rents the property until foreclosure takes place several months later. Equity skimming also occurs when a scam artist purchases a residential property whose owner is in default on his mortgage and/or his real estate taxes, and then diverts rental income from the property for personal gain and does not apply this rental income toward mortgage payments, the payment of taxes and other property-related expenses.

Flipping. A flipping scheme occurs when the seller intentionally misrepresents the value of a property in order to induce a buyer’s purchase. Flipping mortgage fraud schemes usually involve a fraudulent appraisal and a grossly inflated sales price.

Foreclosure schemes. Foreclosure scheme scam artists prey on people with mounting financial problems that that place them in danger of losing their home. Homeowners in the early stages of foreclosure may be contacted by a fraudster who represents to the homeowner that he can get rid of his debt and save his house for an upfront fee, which the scam artist takes and then disappears. In a similar foreclosure scheme, Homeowners are approached by a scam artist who offers to help them refinance the loan. The homeowners are fraudulently induced to sign so-called “refinance” documents only to later find out that they actually transferred title to the house to the fraudster and then face eviction.

Nominee Loans/Straw buyers. One of the most frequent types of mortgage fraud occurs when a “straw buyer” is used to hide the identity of the true borrower who would not qualify for the mortgage. The straw buyer or nominee buyer generally has good credit. The scam artist usually fills out the loan application for the straw buyer, and falsifies the income and net worth of the straw buyer in order to qualify for the loan. These fraud scams were popularized with the advent of the “stated income” loans which did not require a borrower to prove his true income and net worth – the bank just believed the income and net worth that was “stated” on the loan application. Straw buyers are often duped into thinking that they’re investing in real estate that will be rented out, with the rental payments paying the mortgage, and are sometime paid a nominal fee outside of closing. In most case, no payments are made and the lender forecloses on the loan. Sometimes straw buyers are actually in on the scam and are getting a cut of the proceeds.

Silent Second. In the silent second mortgage fraud scheme, the buyer borrows the down payment for the purchase of the property from the seller through the execution of a second mortgage which is not disclosed to the lending bank. The lending bank is fraudulently led to believe that the borrower has invested his own money for the down payment, when in fact, it is borrowed. The second mortgage is generally not recorded to further conceal its status from the primary lending bank.

A mortgage fraud is usually reported to the FBI by the financial institution upon which the fraud has been committed. Pursuant to the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (BSA), a bank must file a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) with FinCEN if a customer’s actions indicate that the customer is laundering money or otherwise violating a federal criminal law such as committing mortgage fraud. See 31 C.F.R. § 103.18(a). A bank is required to file a SAR no later than 30 calendar days after the date of initial detection by the bank of facts that may constitute a basis for filing a SAR, unless no suspect was initially identified on the date of the detection, in which case the bank has up to 60 days to file the SAR. See 31 C.F.R. § 103.18(b). Once FinCEN has analyzed the information contained in the SAR, if a criminal activity is found to have occurred, then the case is turned over to the FBI and the DOJ or AUSO for investigation and prosecution. The rise in FBI SARs reports involving mortgage fraud went from approximately 2,000 in 1996 to over 25,000 in 2005. Of those 2005 SARs reports, 20,000 of involved borrower fraud, approximately 7,000 involved broker fraud, and approximately 2,000 involved appraiser fraud.

The FBI has identified a number of indicators of mortgage fraud of which the South Carolina criminal white collar lawyer needs to be aware. These include inflated appraisals or the exclusive use of one appraiser, increased commissions or bonuses for brokers and appraisers, bonuses paid (outside or at settlement) for fee-based services, higher than customary fees, falsifications on loan applications, explanations to buyers on how to falsify the mortgage application, requests for borrowers to sign a blank loan application, fake supporting loan documentation, requests to sign blank employee forms, bank forms or other forms, purchase loans which are disguised as refinance loans, investors who are guaranteed a re-purchase of the property, investors who are paid a fixed percentage to sell or flip a property, and when multiple “Holding Companies” are used to increase property values.

One of the first and biggest South Carolina mortgage fraud prosecutions occurred in the Charleston Division in the 1990’s. It involved nominee borrowers and straw loans made by Citadel Federal Saving and Loan. Over 10 straw purchasers were enticed into the real estate loans by getting paid fees for signing up for the loans. They did not put up any of their own money as part of the deal and when the loans went sour the bank was left with properties that were upside down, that is, the real estate was worth less the the amount of the loan. Some bank insiders were part of the scheme and got convicted for their respective roles.

The range of defendants that a SC criminal lawyer will represent in a typical mortgage fraud case may include straw borrowers or nominee borrowers, real estate agents, developers, appraisers, mortgage brokers, and sometimes even closing attorneys and bankers. Bankers often get involved in mortgage fraud scams because they are receiving kickbacks from the borrowers or are paid bonuses for the volume of loans made and thus ignore proper banking loan requirements and protocols in order to make more money. Close scrutiny should be given to bank loan applications, appraisals, HUD-1 closing statements, borrower’s W-2 and tax returns when analyzing a potential mortgage fraud case for a potential client.

Federal judges who impose sentences for mortgage fraud normally rely upon the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are now advisory as a result of the U.S. v. Booker case, when determining a sentence. A federal court calculates a particular guideline range by assessing a defendant’s criminal history, the applicable base offense level, and the amount of the actual or intended loss. Section 2B1.1 of the USSG sets forth a loss table which increases the base offense level according to the amount of money involved in the mortgage fraud. Generally, the more money which is lost in a mortgage fraud scam, the greater the sentence the defendant receives. In some cases, a defendant may be subjected to sentencing enhancements which means the defendant receives a greater sentence. A defendant may receive an enhancement for the role in the offense if the court determines that the defendant was an organizer, supervisor, or a recruiter, or used a sophisticated means to facilitate a crime, abused a position a trust, or targeted a vulnerable victim such as a disabled or elderly person. However, federal judges now have wide latitude for imposing a sentence because they must consider the broad statutory factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. 3553(a)which include the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant, the need for the sentence imposed to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the offense, the need to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct, the need to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant, the need to provide the defendant with needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment in the most effective manner, the kinds of sentences available, the sentence recommended by the Sentencing Guidelines and any applicable guidelines or policy statement therein, the need to avoid sentence disparities, and the need for restitution.

There are some important strategic decisions which need to be made for the defendant who has been charged or indicted for mortgage fraud. The defendant and his lawyer should seriously consider the consequences of pleading guilty if he has in fact committed the crime. A mortgage fraud defendant can receive up to a 3 level downward departure for pleading guilty. A criminal lawyer representing a mortgage fraud defendant can also file a motion for a downward departure and/or a motion for a variance and argue factors to the court in support of an additional decrease in a defendant’s sentence. The mortgage fraud defendant’s criminal attorney should closely scrutinize the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s background and criminal history in order to help minimize the amount of time to be served. A valuable tip for an attorney representing a criminal mortgage fraud defendant in South Carolina is to consider mitigating factors such as disparate sentences, 5K departures for cooperation, aberrant behavior, property values, family ties, extraordinary rehabilitation, diminished mental capacity, extraordinary restitution should be considered as possible justifications for a lesser sentence.

A white collar criminal defense attorney in South Carolina must have an understanding of the basics of the mortgage fraud in order to adequately represent clients who have been charged or indicted with mortgage fraud violations. Recognizing the difference between the status of being a target, subject or witness can have important consequences in how a case is handled. A white collar bank fraud or mortgage fraud criminal conviction can have life altering consequences for those defendants convicted of the same. A defendant who is charged or indicted with the federal crime of mortgage fraud should consult with a SC criminal lawyer who is knowledgeable about the different types of these scams, how the scams are carried out, the law enforcement investigatory process, the grand jury process, substantive law regarding mortgage fraud, the applicable federal sentencing guidelines and approaches available to minimize a defendant’s potential sentence.

Advent of Foreign Law Firms in India

The opening of a legal firm by a Nigerian in Delhi has not only lawyers up in arms against the unauthorized practice but has also revived the decade-and-a-half-old debate over the more important question – should foreign lawyers be allowed entry into India?

It is often asserted that India has the potential to become one of the world’s great legal centers in the 21st century, alongside London and New York. It has innate advantages in its common law traditions and English language capability. But until very recently India had not recognized the role that advisory legal services have to play in attracting foreign investment and developing a broader-based services economy.

India being a signatory to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which is an organ of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is under an obligation to open up the service sector to Member Nations.

“Services” would include any service in any sector except services supplied in the exercise of governmental authorities as defined in GATS. “A service supplied in the exercise of governmental authorities” is also defined to mean any service that is supplied neither on a commercial basis nor in competition with one or more service suppliers.

Legal profession is also taken to be one of the services which is included in GATS. With the liberalization and globalization policy followed in India, multinationals and foreign corporations are increasingly entering India. Foreign financial institutions and business concerns are also entering India in a fairly large number. Their business transactions in India are obviously governed by the Indian law and the foreign law firms (FLF’s) and foreign legal consultants (FLC’s) being not fully conversant with the Indian legislation require the assistance of lawyers enrolled and practicing in India. This has led to the idea of entry of foreign legal consultants and liberalization of legal practices in India in keeping with the guidelines evolved by the International Bar Association (IBA) and the GATS. If this idea is to be put into practice, the Advocates Act, 1961 which governs legal practice in India needs to be amended.

Legal “practice” is not defined in the Advocates Act but a reading of Sections 30 and 33 indicates that practice is limited to appearance before any court, tribunal or authority. It does not include legal advice, documentation, alternative methods of resolving disputes and such other services. Section 24 (i)(a) of the Act provides that a person shall be qualified to be admitted as an Advocate on the State Roll if he is a citizen of India provided that subject to this Act a national of any other country may be admitted as an Advocate on the State Roll if the citizens of India duly qualified are permitted to practice law in that other country.

Section 47 of the Act provides that where a country specified by the Central Govt. in this behalf by a notification in the Official Gazette prevents the citizens of India from practicing the profession of law subjects them to unfair discrimination in that country, no subject of any such country shall be entitled to practice that profession of law in India.

The basic principles set out by IBA on the question of validity of FLC’s are fairness, uniform and non-discriminatory treatment, clarity and transparency, professional responsibility, reality and flexibility. The guidelines laid down by the IBA are as follows:

“Legal consultant means a person qualified to practice law in a country (home country) and who desires to be licensed to practice law as a legal consultant without being examined by a body or an authority to regulate the legal profession in a country (host country) other than a home country, such a person has to apply to the host authority for a license by following the procedure for obtaining a license subject to the reasonable conditions imposed by the host authority on the issue of licenses. This license requires renewal. A legal consultant has to submit an undertaking alongwith his application not to accept, hold, transfer, deal with a client found or assigned unless the legal consultant does so in a manner authorized by the host authority to agree and abide by the code of ethics applicable to host jurisdiction besides to abide by all the rules and regulations of both the home and host jurisdiction.

It is open to the host authority to impose the requirement of reciprocity and to impose reasonable restrictions on the practice of FLC’s in the host country, that the FLC’s may not appear as an attorney or plead in any court or tribunal in the host country and the FLC’s may not prepare any documents or instruments whose preparation or performance of other services, is specifically reserved by the host authority for performance by its local members.

Many experts have given their views on entry of FLF’s and FLC’s in India pursuant to GATS. They are not opposed to the idea but it is suggested by them that some restrictions, adequate safeguards and qualifications should be provided for besides reciprocity.

The restrictions, if any, will have to be reasonable. Obtaining Indian law degree and practicing Indian law for a period to be stipulated for entry may be the only reasonable restrictions. Canadian model of University training, examination and articleship administered through a joint committee accreditation may be a viable solution. To follow the principle of non-discrimination, it may not be possible to impose any onerous restriction limiting the clientele, the nature of legal work, the fees to be marked, the form of fees (Rupees or foreign currency) etc. So far as reciprocity is concerned level playing field and uniform code of conduct will have to be worked out. Many western nations allow their lawyers to advertise whereas in India the lawyers are not allowed to do so. In California the FLF’s were only permitted to deal in laws not specific to California. Even in countries like Singapore, Hong-Kong and Japan the FLC’s are restricted to servicing only foreign firms. The treatment meted out to FLC’s and FLF’s in other countries and the rules, regulations made to govern their practice in the foreign country should be thoroughly scrutinized before allowing the entry in India.

Even if reciprocity were allowed, no Indian firm would go abroad to conduct legal business not because it has no talent, competency or efficiency but economically it would not be a viable proposition. The Indian lawyers have no resources to set up an establishment in a foreign country nor will the Indian Government render any assistance to them to promote their business in a foreign country. Even the large population of non-resident Indians would not desire to patronize the Indian lawyers even though they may be experts in their own field because the resident lawyers having full knowledge of the law of the country would be available to them at reasonable price because for the legal experts from India apart from the fees charged for the legal consultancy/service they may have to spend on their traveling expense also. The legal service by calling Indian experts would be very expensive for the non-resident Indians and they may not get full effective service since the Indian legal consultants may not be very conversant with the laws applicable there. It is only if any Indian party is concerned in a dispute and the question relates also to Indian law that Indian legal Consultant would be invited to a foreign country and not otherwise. Such occasions will be rare. The picture is different in case of foreign firms who do business across national borders, due to globalization. They demand foreign lawyers since they like to rely on the services of professionals in their own country who are already familiar with the firm’s business. If the foreign firms carrying on business in India require advice here on home country law, that can be made available to them by the Indian law firms or the Indian legal consultants. They can also prepare the legal documentation or provide the advisory service for corporate restructuring, mergers, acquisitions, intellectual property rights or financial instruments required by the foreign firms. These aspects will have to be seriously considered while considering the principle of reciprocity. Reciprocity should therefore be clearly defined and must be effective. It should be ensured that the rules and/or regulations laid down should be strictly complied with otherwise as is the experience, the rules remain on paper and what is practiced is totally different. The authorities either do not pay any heed to the violations or they overlook or ignore it as in the case of the Foreign law firms in India in the Enron deal, the permissions for such law firms to set up liaison offices came from the RBI which reports directly to the Finance Ministry. When these law firms violated the very conditions of being liaison offices the RBI overlooked or ignored it.

Some are of the view that instead of being perceived as a threat to lawyers, this should be seen as a move to raising standards within the profession but with reciprocal arrangements. The legal profession as it was practiced years before by the legal stalwarts did have a very high standard. However, today that standard of profession is nowhere to be seen or experienced. Legal profession has also become totally commercialized with no human or moral values. The standard has gone down considerably. However, the fees charged have tremendously increased, disproportionately to the service rendered to the clients. No effort is being made in any corner to set the wrong or malpractices which have crept in in the legal profession. On this background, what would be the “raised standards”? If at all the standards are raised, would the entire class of legal practitioners in India benefit or will it be only a small section of the legal practitioners who would be able to take advantage of the new situation? In that case, can this move be said to be in the interest of the legal practitioners? The situation so far as the FLC’s are concerned would be completely different since all the FLC’s who aspire to come to India will get equal treatment whereas the Indian legal practitioners would be deprived of equality in profession. Besides the FLC’s will have foreign clients and even though they are allowed to practice in India with a reasonable restriction of obtaining law degree in India, for some time definitely they will need Indian lawyers to get their work done. With the resources at their end and with the higher exchange rate in currency, they will be able to hire and retain young lawyers with substantial pay packages, though as compared to their fees in their country it would be much lower, with the result that good reputed Attorney’s/Solicitor’s Firms in India would lose their good hands and their work may suffer. Law Firms in U.S.A have funds equal to the annual budget of the State of Maharashtra. With such resources, in a short time, such FLF’s would do away with the existing law firms in India. On this background would our law firms withstand the competition and the quality of service, is an important question to be examined.

The U.S and some other advanced countries have large law firms operating on International scales which are primarily business organizations designed to promote commercial interest of their giant client corporations. The size, power, influence and economical standards of these large international law firms would definitely affect the legal system of our country adversely. We cannot match howsoever far we may stretch it, their size, power and most importantly economical standard. There is a limitation here on the number of partners in an Attorney’s/Solicitor’s firm. The number is restricted to 20 under the Partnership Act, which restriction is non-existent in a foreign law firm. To bring uniformity this limitation will have to be removed allowing for more partners, increasing of funding and manpower.

Moreover the FLF’s have “single window services” meaning services which not only include legal but also accountancy, management, financial and other advice to their clients. The multidisciplinary partnerships will cater to the needs of the clients in the above-mentioned different fields. Such partnerships may endanger the ethics of the legal profession as confidential information may be passed out within the partnership to the non-lawyer professionals. This would prejudicially affect not only the clients but also the lawyers since the independence of the lawyers would be compromised. Once the FLF’s and FLC’s are allowed entry into India the Bar Council of India will have to make rules and regulations also for such multidisciplinary partnerships or single window services. The multidisciplinary partnerships may look attractive but the crucial question is whether the quality of services and accountability of systems can be maintained? The code of ethics needs review to bring international legal practice under its purview.

The Foreign law firms may seek license for full and regular legal practice like that of Indian lawyers or they may come for a limited practice of consultancy for foreign partners on home country laws. Accordingly the rules and regulations will have to be framed to meet both these situations. The FLF’s who intend to come for regular legal practice may have to be subjected to immigration and citizenship laws. Those who seek limited practice may enter into partnerships with the home country law firms without any scrutiny from the organized legal profession. It is therefore necessary that a transparent, fair and accountable system be evolved to regulate and control the internationalization of legal practice.

With the globalization and liberalization policy not only foreign businessmen have come to India for investment but even the foreign goods and products such as agricultural products and other goods have entered the Indian market. The Indian goods and products have to face a tough competition with these foreign products which are cheaper though may not be better in quality. The result is that the Indian agriculturists and merchants are seriously prejudiced in their business. We also have the example of Enron which was in news where the Indian law was modified without probably realizing the adverse effect it would have on the electrical companies in the State. The agreements signed with Enron do not appear to be in the interest of the State or the Nation. However, such matters are thought of only later and not when the actual action is taken. With the present experience, it is felt that we should not be carried away with the idea of raising our standards or of being on par with the other developed countries where the guideline of reciprocity may be followed and the FLC’s and FLF’s would be allowed to enter the country. We have to be very alert and watchful and think well in advance to do away with any lacunas or loopholes in the rules and regulations that may be introduced to safeguard the interest of the lawyers in our country.
One more point which may need consideration is about the countries who would be interested in India. Would these countries be the members of the World Trade Organization or would even the non-member countries be allowed to enter India? If the entry is restricted to only the members of the WTO and if any non-member country desires to enter India, would the entry be denied merely on the ground that it is not the member of the WTO or whether the non-member would be allowed entry to show our fairness and equality of treatment? Thus many countries may be interested in coming to India due to the liberalization; globalization and privatization policy followed in India but the chances of the Indian firms going out of India to enter any foreign country would be remote. The principle of reciprocity may be introduced on paper but may not be effectively followed.

It may be mentioned here that the “Lawyer’s Collective” has filed a public interest litigation before the Mumbai High Court questioning the phrase “practice the profession of law” under section 29 of the Advocates Act. The respondents in their petition include some of the FLF’s which had set up their own liaison offices in India. It is needless to point out that all the above points may be discussed and examined in the above petition, the result of which is awaited.

The Indian legal profession has, in recent years, undergone a significant change, emerging as highly competitive and ready to move along with the ongoing wave of globalization. The interest of foreign law firms to open shop in India therefore is hardly surprising, since India offers a full range of legal services, of comparable quality, at literally a fraction of the price that would otherwise have to be paid. The rather conservative and if one may use the word, “protectionist” stand of the Bar Council of India on the matter has, however, prohibited foreign law firms from operating in India. A number of the more established ones, perhaps unable to resist the immense potential of the Indian legal markets, and in anticipation of the “globalization of legal services” under the aegis of the WTO, are slowly (and quite discreetly) establishing their presence in India, this in a considerable number of cases taking the form of their entering into associations with Indian firms, and in the process, literally operating in India indirectly, despite the prohibitions against the same. An issue that has therefore started to attract the attention of not simply Indian lawyers, but also law school grads, is the likely consequences of the entry of foreign firms in India. Shall this help an already growing Indian legal market, or shall it only mean a job loss for Indian law grads?

The fact remains that India is in the process of globalizing its economy. In the process, the legal market opening up to competition from the international legal market is rather inevitable. Instead of deliberating about the advantages and disadvantages of the legal markets being opened up to foreign firms, it is perhaps more sensible to accept that the entry of foreign firms in India is only a matter of time. However, this should not mean that their operations should nor be regulated, since otherwise they may just push out the Indian firms. For law school grads, their presence in India could well translate into an increasing range of job opportunities, apart from their presence in India significantly influencing the way in which the Indian legal market evolves in the 21st century.

Tips for an HIPAA-Compliant Office

After the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act were signed into federal law in the year 1996, it changed the face of health data security. It also brought with it many changes in the workflow of all healthcare provider establishments. Failure to comply with the requirements of HIPAA may result in jail time of payment of fines amounting to up to $250, 000.00.

In many cases, healthcare providers chose to hire HIPAA experts to oversee that all of their policies and workflow are HIPAA-compliant. However, it is also important for healthcare providers to ensure that HIPAA requirements are being practiced by all staff members. There are several easy practices providers can do to make sure they are complying with the HIPAA.

Many physicians think only in-house staff can adhere to the requirements of HIPAA. However, most virtual staff providers are now HIPAA-compliant. Firms like Accolade Consultants who provide medical virtual assistants and virtual scribes now combine professional training with HIPAA-compliant technologies. When hiring staff providers, make sure that the firm strictly adheres to the requirements of HIPAA.

Limiting the access of protected health information or PHI will also help in complying with HIPAA. Mapping all location and limiting access to sensitive information will decrease the risk of unauthorized access. Laptops and personal computers containing PHI must be encrypted and kept safe with passwords and must be installed with anti-virus software. Personnel must also be trained not to talk about patient records in the presence of non-clinic staff. Staff must also refrain from accessing patient records unless needed.

Encrypt messages when sending PHI through email and use cover sheets when faxing data. Also, machines used for sending and copying like photocopy machines should only be accessed by authorized personnel. To make sure that all sensitive information is kept, make regular check and rounds in the clinic. Make sure patient records and files are not visible and computer monitors can only be viewed by authorized staff.

If your organization or office falls under the covered entity, it is important to hire an HIPAA Compliance Officer. The Compliance Officer should know everything there is to know about the HIPAA. They should also be updated with the rules and regulations of the HIPAA because the organization or office might need to comply with it.

Training all staff about the HIPAA requirements will greatly help the office. Invest in seminars and training on HIPAA and try to adopt new office policies that are HIPAA-compliant. Another important tip for complying with the HIPAA is to have a back-up or contingency plan. In the event of unauthorized access or hacking, an organization must always have a backup data and they must be able to stop the hack to prevent further damage.

There is no such thing as “HIPAA Police”. HIPAA audit is done randomly but there is always a chance that your office will be randomly picked. It is better to be prepared than to pay thousands of dollars or worse, go to jail.

What Goes On At An Immigration Law Office?

If you have having legal problems and hope to attain immigrant status in the United States, you should seek the services of an immigration law office. The lawyers in these offices have the knowledge and skills to handle cases that deal specifically with immigration regulations.

People want to immigrate to other countries for a wide variety of reasons. The most common are to obtain legal permanent residency or to find work in that country. When you become a legal permanent resident, you are granted a license to stay in the U.S. on a permanent basis, free to live and work as you desire. Getting a license means doing a lot of legal work, however, and an immigration law office is just the place to turn to for help.

To obtain a permanent residency, you should consult with attorneys that specialize in immigration law. They have training in how to handle cases that involve the laws regulating immigration. The best source of information and guidance in getting permanent residency status is the immigration law office. You can ask for advice about eligibility requirements and other rules and regulations governing the application for permanent residence. After receiving advice from the law office, you will know what route to take to get where you want to go in terms of residency.

The immigration law office will inform you about four basic immigration options that are available to applicants for U.S. visas. These include immigration through employment, through a family member, permanent resident status as a refugee or someone seeking asylum, and immigration through a diversity lottery. Each method has benefits and disadvantages, depending on your unique circumstances. The lawyer you consult at the immigration law office will assess your qualification before offering any advice regarding your options.

You can get citizenship to the U.S. by either your birth or the naturalization process. The immigration law office will inform you of the benefits to be obtained by becoming a citizen. These include higher exemptions in estate taxes, federal job benefits, more freedom to travel to other countries, and the all-important right to vote. Your immigration lawyer will also inform you about the federal grants and scholarships that are available only to U.S. citizens.

The law office can help with the preparation and filing of your application for citizenship as well. You must comply with a number of regulations, and the law office attorney can also tell you if you have any particular issues that should be addressed. If there are problems that threaten your citizenship application, the attorney will discuss them with you and suggest ways to resolve them.