Fraud Risk Plan Wins High Marks in CPA Competition

Jan. 18, 2012

A UT Dallas team’s plan to steer a freewheeling Texas construction company back onto a straight-and-narrow path to success recently earned the students third place in a national case competition.

Highly Debticated, a foursome from Naveen Jindal School of Management, won $2,500 in the contest, the second annual American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ (AICPA) collegiate accounting competition.

Team captain and senior accounting major Amanda Billingsley;  fellow accounting majors, senior Ben Harwood and junior Teresa Tran; and senior business administration major Thomas Mätter earned the prize last month in Washington, D.C.

“It was an incredible experience, in which we tested our limits, and were able to go beyond expectations,” Billingsley said.

The team followed in the successful footsteps of a JSOM team that earned first place in the 2010 AICPA competition. JSOM Undergraduate Accounting Program Director John Barden advised both winning teams.“AICPA runs a first-rate contest that demands students perform at the top of their game from start to finish.”

John Barden

“AICPA runs a first-rate contest that demands students perform at the top of their game from start to finish,” Barden said. “I was proud last year, but I’m just as proud this year.”

In all, 98 teams nationwide qualified in Round One. The JSOM team was one of just three to make it to the contest’s third round. Judges named a squad from North Carolina State University the first-place winner. An Iowa State University team won second.

The competition focused on fraud and forensics, an accounting specialty that detects or avoids wrongdoing by auditing ledgers and investigating the ethical and legal soundness of business practices. The field is one of the fastest-growing areas of accounting, said AICPA Chairman Greg Anton.

For the case competition, teams played the role of consultants and wrote a 750-word analysis to help the fictitious Texas firm, High Prairie Construction, assess the top fraud risks tied to building oil pipelines in Nigeria.

In a 1,500-word recommendation and 5- to 6-minute video, semifinalists had to re-assess the situation for Round Two. Their instructions had revealed that in other foreign countries where High Prairie already worked, the CEO was aware but “turned a blind eye” not only to the company’s payment of bribes to local officials but also to its avoidance of local taxes.

Highly Debticated fine-tuned its recommendations for its 10-minute final presentation. The team proposed HPC move away from its current high-risk situation by setting first short-term, then long-term goals leading to companywide low-risk tolerance for fraud.

Set the tone at the top, the team advised as its most important low-risk proposal. “If HPC’s leadership visibly supports anti-bribery policies, then employees and affiliates are likely to follow.”

Next, the group said, implement an ethics and compliance program.

Final advice: “Regular ethics and compliance training for all employees should be mandatory.”

“This was an excellent challenge,” Jindal School Dean Hasan Pirkul said of the competition. “It made contestants think about finances, strategy, internal controls, external compliance — all in a global setting. This is how business works today, and I am glad our students showed how well they can handle it.”


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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AICPA Case Competion 2011

Clockwise from top left: Ben Harwood, John Barden, Teresa Tran and Amanda Billingsley.  Not pictured:  Thomas Matter.

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