Financial Reporting Fraud: Public and Private Companies

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This study uses survey data gathered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) and provided to the Institute of Fraud Prevention (IFP) to examine differences in the profile of financial reporting fraud (FRF) between private companies and public companies. Although private companies represent a significant portion of the economy, largely due to lack of data on these companies, most research on FRF examines only public companies. The primary objective of this study is to determine how private company FRF is different from FRF in public companies. Our multivariate tests reveal that public companies have stronger anti-fraud environments, are more likely to have frauds that involve timing differences, tend to experience larger frauds, have frauds that involve a larger number of perpetrators, and are less likely to have frauds that are discovered by accident. Overall, it appears that the stronger anti-fraud environment in public companies leads public company FRF perpetrators to use less obvious fraud methods (i.e., timing differences) and to involve larger fraud teams to circumvent the controls. These public company frauds are larger than in private companies, and their larger size may make them more likely to be detected through formal means, rather than by accident. Based on the results, we encourage auditors and others to be particularly attuned to unique risks of the public versus private setting.

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Journal of Forensic Accounting Research

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