Taking The Stress Out Of Financial Management

A lack of understanding about the numbers side of your business can cause you tremendous headaches. For a case in point, let me introduce you to one of my new clients who I’ll call John. John is a contractor who has been in business for more than twenty years. He hired me to come in and clean up a mess caused by 1) his lack of knowledge about small business finances and 2) his reliance on marginally competent bookkeepers.

It’s a classic small business scenario. A business owner who doesn’t understand the financial side of his business hires a bookkeeper to handle “all that”. But, because he doesn’t understand the financial side of his business, he doesn’t know what to look for in a bookkeeper and he has no way of knowing whether the bookkeeper is doing a good job.

This is the perfect set up for all sorts of unpleasant consequences including inaccurate financial records and tax returns, missed or inaccurate filings of mandatory forms and payments, useless financial statements, lack of information about how the business is really doing, and a potential for fraud and embezzlement. Scary, huh?

So, what’s a business owner to do? Here are some tips to help you stay out of trouble.

1. Understand that the numbers side of your business is a critical factor in your quest for a successful and prosperous business. You can hire someone else to do the work but you still need a basic understanding in order to run your business.

2. Know the difference between hiring a bookkeeper and hiring a financial professional. A good bookkeeper will understand how to accurately enter information like payables and receivables, process a payroll, make collection calls, and reconcile a checking account. All those are important and necessary tasks. Notice I call them tasks. Bookkeepers are task oriented. A professional finance professional may also perform these tasks but their real value is in taking the information that has been entered and translating it into knowledge about your business and then communicating it to you in a way you will understand. Financial managers are analysis and knowledge oriented. Two different ways of looking at your financial information by two different professionals.

3. Sometimes you can find someone who can perform both sets of competencies but individuals like that are few. Generally, it is more cost effective to have a competent bookkeeper perform the task oriented pieces of the financial puzzle–entering vendor and customer invoices, receiving payments, processing payroll, etc. and then use a financial manager to help you understand what the numbers mean.

4. A financial manager can be someone like your CPA (certified public accountant–they’re not just for taxes anymore) or you can use a CFO (chief financial officer) who specializes in working with a number of different smaller businesses. Usually you can get the information you need by hiring someone to look over your financials once a month, do some analysis and report back to you on trends and operating efficiency, and give you solid advice on how to improve your business. Be sure to find someone who understands the ins and outs of managing cash flow since this is such a critical challenge for small business owners.

5. When you set up your accounting system, get professional help. Again call your CPA or CFO to help with this. How you set it up is directly related to how useful the information is. Part of the problem my client is dealing with is a very poorly set up QuickBooks company. The set up was done in such a way that all the useful features like bank reconciliation and job costing have been rendered un-useable. Getting it set up right in the first place costs a pittance compared to having someone come in and spend hours or days fixing it later.

6. Make sure you have internal controls to protect your business from theft and fraud. Some examples: never have the same person who signs checks also reconcile the bank statement, always scan through cancelled checks or your bank’s check copies for any checks that look out of the ordinary, protect your passwords, keep checks (including the ones from your credit card company) in a secure place, know the basics of navigating your accounting system so you can at least appear knowledgeable, have a trained professional looking over your books regularly to deter fraud and to pick up on any clues that fraud may be happening.

7. When you hire a finance person for your business whether it’s a bookkeeper, a CPA, or a CFO, find one with experience in a business like yours. If you are a contractor like my client, find professionals who have worked with other contracting businesses. If you are a lawyer, find one who has worked for a law office or other professional service office. Check references. Ask for a few customers/employers you can contact to find out more about how the person is to work with. Red flag–an unwillingness to provide any information demonstrating their ability to do the job.

My client John now has a plan to move beyond the days of chaos and stress. He will use a bookkeeper to enter his invoices, receive payments, and keep his job folders under control. He will use my CFO service on a monthly basis to help him learn about the numbers side of his business, to get the information he needs to run his business, and to provide oversight and professional input for his bookkeeper. My involvement brings the stability and consistency that his business has needed for years. With a big sigh of relief he is able to say, “Goodbye Chaos! Hello smoother sailing.”

What Is A White Collar Crime?

White collar crimes involve non-violent actions that are committed by a public official or business person that typically involve the use of deception. No weapons or violence is used in white collar crimes, so the evidence takes the form of a “paper trial,” which can be followed to discover the true details of the crime.

If you have been charged with a white collar crime, it is in your best interest to contact an attorney immediately to learn more about your legal options. Lawyers who understand the complex legal process and have extensive experience handling white collar crime cases will be able to provide you with superior legal representation.

Types of White Collar Crime

Below are several examples of white collar crimes. This list is not exhaustive by any means.

  • Embezzlement – occurs when the person entrusted with someone else’s property takes it without consent.
  • Bribery – occurs when someone either gives or takes a bribe.
  • Larceny – occurs when someone takes someone else’s property without payment and does not return it.
  • Extortion – is also referred to as blackmail.
  • Fraud – occurs when someone uses deception to gain access to other people’s information in order to steal it or benefit from it in some way.
  • Obstruction of Justice – occurs when someone interferes with the criminal process by impeding an investigation.
  • Perjury – occurs when someone lies while under oath in a court proceeding.

Prosecution of White Collar Crimes

Depending on which laws have been broken by the defendant, white collar crimes can be prosecuted at the state or federal level. Conviction most often leads to large fines, jail time, and restitution to the victims of the crimes.

If you have been charged with a white collar crime, a conviction could have a seriously negative impact on your reputation, family life, and career opportunities. Hiring a skilled white collar crime attorney will ensure that you receive the fair trial that you deserve. When it comes to your freedom and reputation, you need an experienced lawyer to aggressively fight for your rights.

A Lawyer Can Help

If you or someone you love has committed white collar crimes such as securities fraud, embezzlement, computer fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, among others, contact a white collar criminal defense lawyer immediately. A knowledgeable and experienced lawyer will work to build a solid defense on your behalf. Contact a white collar criminal defense lawyer to learn more about the protection of your rights.

A Career in Criminal Law

A good criminal lawyer can make the difference in a client losing a business or car license, losing assets, or even preventing jail time. A criminal lawyer is expected to be skilled in negotiation and presenting facts on his client in a favorable light. They will often be presented with difficult cases requiring a great deal of skill in presenting facts in a way that benefits the client. If this kind of career interests you and you wish to know more how to pursue this career, then read on.

Job description

A criminal lawyer is expected to defend clients charged with criminal offenses. This can cover a wide range of criminal offenses such as domestic violence, sex offenses, violent crimes, drug crimes, embezzlement, fraud, theft, and driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). A criminal lawyer can of course specialize in one area and become drug offence solicitors, traffic lawyers or sex offence lawyers, but in general they must be able to handle a diverse spectrum of criminal offenses. A criminal lawyer will be required to handle bail bond hearings, trial hearings, parole and probation hearings, and present plea bargains. They will need to be skilled at building a defense and creating a case strategy, and be able to argue motions, and negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution to lessen the charges.

Skills required

It is essential for a criminal lawyer to possess strong negotiation skills. They will be required to have excellent oral and writing ability, and strong research and investigative skills. They must be able to stay calm and think logically, and have the ability to think on their feet and change tactics quickly if necessary. They must have an in-depth understanding of criminal law and an ability to navigate the criminal justice system. They must also possess excellent interpersonal skills in order to help build a strong client-attorney relationship.

Qualifications required

To pursue a career in criminal law you will be required to obtain a law degree and pass the bar examination. There are generally two routes you can take to become qualified. The first route is via a four-year degree in criminal law or criminal justice. This will include coursework which covers topics such as criminology, investigative techniques, corrections, rehabilitation, and psychology. The other route a student can take is via an associate degree. An associate degree program in criminal justice or law enforcement will require you to have basic college-level qualifications such as English composition, criminal justice, criminal procedure, psychology and various electives. Work out which route would suit you best then make enquiries about courses available. Note that many universities offer online criminal law programs, so if there are no courses available to you locally or you have other commitments, an online course may be the most suitable option for you. As for course fees, if you cannot afford to pay for this yourself, you can apply for a government grant or government assisted loan. Enquire with the university how to go about applying for a government grant or assisted loan.

Examples of White Collar Crimes and Wire Or Mail Fraud

The term “white collar crime” describes a variety of conduct. The term was first used by Edwin Sutherland when he addressed the American Sociological Society in 1939. Dr. Sutherland presented the position that corruption among affluent business and government officials caused as much harm to society as what is commonly referred to as “street” or “blue collar” crime. Thus, society should take action to identify and punish individuals involved in such conduct.

Perhaps “white collar crime” is best defined as property crimes associated with business that do not result in physical injury to any person. This broad definition can apply to complex investment schemes such as those publicized in the Enron scandal, or insider trading allegations such as those brought against Martha Stewart. The definition can also apply to more direct criminal activity such as telemarketing schemes, Internet fraud, and embezzlement.

Some examples of “white collar crimes” are: access device fraud, bank fraud, blackmail, bribery, cellular phone fraud, computer/Internet fraud, counterfeiting and forgery (not only currency but also certificates, documents of authenticity, licensing documents, identity, contractual agreements, etc.), credit card fraud, futures speculation schemes, copyright infringements, embezzlement, environmental regulation violations, extortion, fraud involving the health care industry, insider trading, insurance fraud, investment schemes, money laundering, securities fraud, tax fraud and evasion, telemarketing schemes, fraud involving illegal attainment of government services or benefits, bait and switch schemes, price fixing, false advertising, improper weights and measures for marketable goods, etc. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the conduct that could be characterized as “white collar crime.

Often, subjects of investigations of “white collar crimes” are accused of committing wire or mail fraud, obstruction of justice, or for making false statements to federal investigators. Wire and mail fraud prosecutions are very common in the arena of “white collar crime.” The difference between wire or mail fraud is that with wire fraud, the defendant used the “wires” (i.e., phones, fax, radio, etc.) to further the scheme to defraud, whereas with mail fraud, the defendant uses the United States Postal Service. See 18 U.S.C. yy 1341, 1343. The wire and mail fraud charges are very serious charges. The two carry a statutory maximum penalty of twenty (20) years imprisonment!

You may wonder why you or your company may be charged with wire or mail fraud for conduct that is more specifically addressed in other statutes. Especially in light of the fact that in today’s marketplace, businesses of all types are highly regulated. Perhaps it was explained best in a Second Circuit case from New York: “To federal prosecutors of white collar crime, the mail fraud statute is our Stradivarius, our Colt 45, our Louisville Slugger, our Cuisinart–and our true love. We may flirt with RICO, show off with 10b-5, and call the conspiracy law ‘darling,’ but we always come home to the virtues of 18 U.S.C. y 1341, with its simplicity, adaptability, and comfortable familiarity.”

United States v. Pisani, 773 F.2d 397, 409 (2nd Cir. 1985) (citing Rakoff, The Federal Mail Fraud Statute (Part 1), 18 Duq.L.Rev. 771, 771 (1980)) (footnotes omitted).

In other words, due to the simplicity of the wire and mail fraud statutes and because of the fact that oftentimes prosecutors are unable to identify violations of more specific statutes, the prosecutors simply rely on their “sweetheart” statutes, Mail or Wire Fraud. The prosecutors twist the facts in an attempt to satisfy the elements of the Mail or Wire Fraud statutes.

If you have been charged with Mail or Wire Fraud, or conspiracy to commit mail or wire fraud (which carries the same penalty as Mail or Wire Fraud), you are facing very serious charges. The author HIGHLY recommends that you obtain COMPETENT legal counsel IMMEDIATELY. If you anticipate that you may face Mail or Fraud charges, or conspiracy to commit Mail or Wire Fraud charges, the author recommends that you obtain COMPETENT legal counsel AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. If you are aware that you or your company is being investigated as a result of your business activities, the author recommends that you obtain COMPETENT legal counsel AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

Competent legal counsel is very important from the moment that you realize you may be the subject of an investigation for any conduct that may constitute “white collar crime.” Often, legitimate business people find themselves prosecuted for unintentionally making false statements to investigators (just ask Martha Stewart), or for other unintentional actions that can be construed as an attempt to obstruct justice. The risk of such prosecution necessitates the acquisition of legal counsel as soon as possible.

Understanding Business Or Personal Embezzlement

Every year countless individuals and companies find themselves in a quandary that is the direct result of embezzlement. The truth is, any company or person that deals with large sums of money on a day-to-day basis does in fact run the risk of such money being stolen or having it improperly used. If you are a business owner this can result in a loss of revenue for your company and could end up tarnishing your reputation.

The moment you discover that such a theft has taken place, you must immediately contact a professional lawyer in order to ensure that you are capable of getting back that which was stolen from you. If you neglect to do this, you are simply opening the doors for future thefts to take place.

What Exactly Is Embezzlement?

Embezzlement is easy to understand. In short, embezzlement occurs when an individual who has access to funds or property that is not their own, steals from the funds and attempts to pass off the remaining revenue as the only revenue there was from the onset. A person who is involved in embezzlement generally does it over a prolonged period of time. They steal small amounts of money so that it is not noticed by the company or individual that this money or property actually belongs to.

Regardless of the nature or specifics of such an event this is a crime that is punishable under the law.

What To Do If I Discover Embezzlement?

If at any time you believe that money is being laundered from your company or you notice discrepancies in accounting, you must report these findings to a superior. If you believe that your superior is involved in the laundering then you will of course want to take the matter to a person who oversees your immediate superior.

You can also contact a lawyer or the authorities in order to ensure that the matter is taken care of quickly and effectively according to the law. You cannot sit idly by and let a person get away with this type of crime. Even if you are unsure whether or not a crime has taken place, it is better to make your case upfront so that your conscience is free and so that you can’t be held accountable for knowing that a crime did in fact exist.

If you have been accused of embezzlement you will want to immediately seek out and obtain the services of a professional lawyer who specializes in this type of crime. It is very important that you have an expert on your side so that you can be certain that your life and well-being are protected effectively and professionally.

The worst thing you can do is nothing.