Global Investigations Review - The law and practice of international investigations

GIR 100 2019

Forensic Risk Alliance

25 October 2019

Forensic Risk Alliance has been keeping an especially close eye on the Nordic region in the year of the company’s 20th anniversary. The firm’s newest office opened in Stockholm in 2019.

The firm

Since it was founded two decades ago, FRA has been a top-choice for major law firms and companies to advise on high-profile corruption, sanctions and bribery matters, providing forensic accounting and e-discovery expertise. The firm has led prominent investigations since its early days, when it helped Holocaust victims and their heirs retrieve assets stolen by Nazis prior to and during the Second World War.

FRA was founded by former investment bankers Frances McLeod and Toby Duthie, and forensic accountant Greg Mason.

McLeod is a GIR Women in Investigations nominee and was the lead partner in FRA’s UN oil-for-food programme investigation into allegedly corrupt payments made under the programme. The final report, presented to six US congressional committees by McLeod, revealed evidence that companies and individuals paid kickbacks to Iraqi officials to participate in the programme.

Duthie is based in FRA’s London office from which he manages the company’s UK and European offices. He has developed expertise in Foreign Corrupt Practices act matters having worked on four of the 10 largest FCPA settlements and a handful of monitorships. In 2018 he was named Investigations Forensic Accountant of the Year by GIR’s sister publication, Who's Who Legal.

In FRA’s Providence office, Mason is credited with developing the company’s e-discovery tool, which allows companies to remotely process documents in compliance with data privacy, state secrecy and bank secrecy laws in multiple jurisdictions including the EU, China and Brazil.

In Washington, DC Stacy Fresch is head of operations and has been appointed as an independent co-monitor in connection with a Public Company Accounting Oversight Board enforcement action. Fresch was formerly assistant chief accountant at the US Securities and Exchange Commission and joined from KPMG in 2016.

Jen Baskin, a GIR Women in Investigations nominee, was the first forensic accountant assigned to the SEC’s FCPA unit in 2011, and in 2014 she was an in-house forensic accounting specialist and compliance officer at IBM. She joined the firm in 2017 from EY.

Additions to the firm in 2018 included Trevor Wiles, Drew Costello and Jenna Voss. Wiles joined FRA as a partner in the firm’s forensic services practice in June after two decades at KPMG, and Voss joined as a director in New York after three years at AlixPartners.

Former IBM in-house counsel Doel Kar joined FRA at the beginning of 2019. A practicing lawyer with 18 years’ experience, Doel was responsible for IBM’s global anti-corruption compliance program across its supply chain and is now a director at FRA’s New York office.

In March 2019, FRA added two new forensic accounting directors: Nancy Waung in New York and Jessica Bradley in Washington, DC. Waung joined from EY’s forensic services department where she carried out anti-bribery and corruption investigations in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Bradley was formerly a compliance officer at Diebold Nixdorf.

Recent events

In February 2019, Swedbank chose to hire FRA for a forensic investigation of claims made by Swedish journalists that the bank had facilitated money laundering. At the time, the bank said it wanted to present the results at the next annual general meeting in late March, giving FRA less than a month to complete the initial investigation.

FRA was instructed by Rolls-Royce in 2017 to analyse financial material and prepare submissions on gross profit figures for the SFO’s fraud investigation into the engineering company. Rolls-Royce paid £671 million to the DOJ and the SFO as part of a deferred prosecution agreement to settle allegations that it bribed agents to win export contracts.

FRA was instructed by law firms to provide e-discovery and forensic accounting services in the corruption investigation into Swedish telecommunications company Telia. The investigation led to a first-of-its-kind settlement in 2017 with US, Dutch and Swedish authorities to resolve allegations of bribery in Uzbekistan. FRA assisted in the disgorgement negotiations.

Network

FRA has 11 offices: London; Washington, DC; Providence; Philadelphia; New York; Dallas; Montreal; Paris; Zurich; Helsinki and Stockholm. FRA investigators have carried out work in more than 75 countries.

Clients

FRA’s list of clients include Swedbank, Rolls-Royce, French engineering company Technip, US oil and gas services company Weatherford International, oil company Total, and the City of Ferguson, Missouri.

Track record

FRA has acted for French construction company Alstom and chemicals company Innospec. FRA was also hired by French engineering company Technip in 2008, in a DOJ investigation for alleged bribery relating to the construction of liquefied natural gas facilities in Nigeria, which was resolved with a $240 million penalty in 2010.

In 2016, FRA was retained to support the independent monitor overseeing a settlement between the Justice Department and the Ferguson City Council after the DOJ uncovered a pattern of unlawful conduct by the city’s law enforcement which disproportionately affected African Americans.

According to the firm’s website, FRA acted as the forensic accounting support to the monitor for Israel-based Leumi after the bank was caught up in a tax avoidance scheme. 

FRA was hired by Miller & Chevalier to support an independent examiner of several Swiss banks under the DOJ’s 2013 tax programme.

FRA won the GIR Award for Investigations Consultancy of the Year in 2016 and 2017.

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