Undergrads Hone Fraud-Fighting Skills in Contest

JSOM Team Hopes to Repeat Success With Internal Audit Competition Video

Nov. 15, 2011

Nobody at the Naveen Jindal School of Management wanted to get cocky this year about the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ (AICPA) annual collegiate accounting competition. The UT Dallas team won first place and $10,000 in the launch of the national contest last year, and it seemed like tempting fate to openly contemplate capturing that flag again.

But now that Highly Debticated, JSOM’s team this year, has been chosen as one of 10 semifinalist squads, its four members are looking for help.  The more votes they get for contest video posted online, the greater chance the team can be one of three teams chosen to advance to the finals in January in Washington, D.C.

Last year, the UT Dallas team tallied the most online votes, and Highly Debticated would like to repeat that feat.

AICPA Annual Collegiate Accounting Competition

Supporters who see the Highly Debticated posters around campus can scan the QR Code into a mobile phone or go to the team's website later to vote.

The online video features the team: captain and senior accounting major Amanda Billingsley, her fellow accounting majors, senior Ben Harwood and junior Teresa Tran; and senior business administration major Thomas Mätter.

The story line for the contest keys off risky, high-stakes international business and focuses on a fictional Texas company, High Prairie Construction (HPC), whose imaginary CEO is, as Mätter described him, “a free-wheeling kind of guy. He just wants to get business done; he doesn’t really care how it’s done.”

For Round One, the team turned in a 750-word summary assessing the top three fraud risks that HPC should anticipate if it wins contracts to build oil pipelines in Nigeria.

The team concluded that the company has weak internal controls for preventing fraud and is potentially prey to management’s rationalization that overriding them is OK if that is what it takes to get a job done. Also, the company’s use of “local facilitators” acting as liaisons to foreign-government officials may lead to bribery. And last, legislative reform under way in Nigeria favoring Nigerian companies over foreign interests increases the likelihood that HPC may find itself operating in violation of local laws.

For Round Two, the team had anticipated being asked to make a case for eliminating or mitigating these risks. Instead, contest administrators “threw us a curveball,” Mätter said.

Semifinalists’ instructions revealed that in other foreign countries where HPC already is at work, the CEO is aware “but has turned a blind eye” not only to the company’s payment of bribes to local officials but also to its avoidance of local taxes.

Uh-oh.

Tasked to re-evaluate the situation, Highly Debticated offered a 1,500-word written recommendation and the video, which the team shot using a camera AICPA provided.

No spoiler alert needed here because HD wants you to check out the cinematic results for yourselves. 

Billingsley did reveal that the team acts the roles of hotshot members of Dionysus Consulting Co.

Tran said the team tried to make the video upbeat and catchy. "So it won’t bore the audience to death or anything like that — because not everyone gets accounting,” Tran said.

Harwood agreed. “You definitely don’t have to have an accounting background. An internal audit background might help, but it’s pretty understandable.”

Highly Debticated will know by Nov. 23 whether the team has made it to the finals. If it does, the team’s new responsibility will be to prepare a 10-minute live presentation to impress the judges one more time.


Media Contact: Kris Imherr, Naveen Jindal School of Management, (972) 883-4793, imherr@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu
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Team Seeks Online Help for Entry

Between now and and Nov. 21, go to Highly Debticated’s  dashboard on the competition website.

Technically, you will be voting not for the team but for its 5½-minute video, a required part of the competition. Fifteen percent of the video’s score in the challenge will be based on the public’s electronic show of hands.

After viewing the video:

  • Click on the “Vote” button beneath the team’s name. Type your name and email address in the fields provided. Click on your team relationship. Click “Submit.”
  • You will be directed to your Inbox for an email response. (If you have an email blocker on, check to see whether the response has been caught in your Junk Mailbox. If it has, move the message to your Inbox.)
  • Open your email and confirm your vote.
  • AICPA will count one vote per email address.

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