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How to catch employees stealing

Tracy L. Coenen Have you ever wondered how and when your employees are stealing from the company? Did you ever wish that you were a fly on the wall, hearing all of the conversations that led up to a group theft? Have you considered secret cameras throughout your workplace to catch employees in the act? Have you wondered what employees ...

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Landwehr decision confirms ‘best interest of the child’

On June 6, the Wisconsin Supreme Court clarified an important legal issue in placement modification determinations in Landwehr v. Landwehr. The Supreme Court confirmed that, in a placement modification under Sec. 767.325(1)(b), Stats., Sec. 767.24(4)(a)(2), Stats., does not mandate equal placement. A child’s parental time should be maximized within the overall placement schedule and the statutorily-required factors. The Court also ...

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The future of fraud

Tracy L. Coenen Massive frauds at companies such as Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom brought significant attention to the subject of fraud in public companies. The frauds became real as jobs were eliminated, investors lost millions of dollars, and families lost their savings. Faith in the executives and financial statements of companies was rocked to the core. Regulations were implemented to ...

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Supreme Court rules on equal placement

Gregg Herman A recent high court opinion finally put to rest the debate about equal placement for the children of divorce in Wisconsin. Specifically, on June 11, 2006, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its opinion in Landwehr v. Landwehr, 2006 WI 64 (Jun. 6, 2006), affirming an unpublished opinion of the District I Court of Appeals. The case resolved the ...

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Enron: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Tracy L. Coenen After a trial that lasted almost four months, Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, both former heads of Enron Corp., have been convicted of multiple federal offenses related to the collapse of the company. The guilty verdicts were rendered on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, and securities fraud. The Enron executives engaged in a broad scheme to inflate ...

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Case was poor candidate for publication

Gregg Herman On April 26, 2006, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals ordered the decision in Frisch v. Heinrichs, 2006 WI App 64 published, despite written pleas from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the Wisconsin De-partment of Workforce Development and the Wisconsin Family Court Commissioners Association to the contrary. Depending on how strictly the holding is read, the result may ...

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The true cost of fraud

Tracy L. Coenen When we think of on-the-job fraud, we tend to think in extremes. One extreme is the teenage punk with orange hair and a nose ring, and he’s stealing cash out of the register or letting his friends have free chips and soda. The other extreme is that of the wealthy executive who runs off with millions by ...

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Time to move forward together

Gregg Herman Over the past few weeks, this column has examined the relationship between family law attorneys and mental health professionals. We have examined the issues from the perspective of studies of family law processes and of the use of mental health professionals in the legal process. Now, how can lawyers and mental health professionals work together in the future ...

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Clients can be coached to manage divorce anxiety

Gregg Herman Many, if not most, of the clients seen by a family law attorney, exhibit a high degree of anxiety. Sometimes, it manifests itself in anger; sometimes in depression; and sometimes in a different manner altogether. This anxiety interferes with the attorney’s ability to concentrate on the legal aspects of the case. Frequently, the attorney will refer the client ...

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Finding a thief: Personal red flags of fraud

Tracy L. Coenen As victims of occupational fraud reflect on crimes committed against their companies, they wonder if there were any signs that a fraud was occurring. They wonder how a trusted employee could steal from the company. Sadly, frauds are committed by people in positions of trust. What is it about those people that leads them to commit fraud? ...

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Legal systems need deeper understanding of psychologists

Gregg Herman Forensic psychology frequently plays a critical role in family law actions, most often when parents are embroiled in custody and placement disputes. The court appoints a psychologist; tests are administered; and several weeks later, the expert produces a report, often in painstaking detail. It can be difficult for a client to read, even when it all seems accurate ...

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Family lies: Fraud in family business

Tracy L. Coenen Trust is inherent in any good business. We continuously place trust in our employees and in those with whom we do business. But that trust which is so necessary to the operation of a business is also the impetus for thieves to profit. It is unfortunate that fraud occurs when and where you least expect it. Blood ...

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Communication gap creates barrier between research, lawyers

Gregg Herman Most Wisconsin counties require parents to attend a parenting class as a condition of getting a divorce. On the one hand, these classes are the legal equivalent of chicken soup — it may not make the patient better, but will certainly do no harm. On the other hand, these classes cost parties money through attendance, time to discuss ...

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Disciplines overlap in family law cases

Gregg Herman As divorce lawyers, we are intimately aware of the overlapping relationship between psychology and family law. In certain cases, we feel that we are practicing more psychology than law. At the same time, it is also not uncommon for clients who are in counseling to report discussions with a therapist which dangerously tread on the line of practicing ...

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The fight against fraud: Arm yourself with prevention

Tracy L. Coenen If you’ve been living under a rock for the last several years, you might not have heard yet that fraud is big business. Companies are most at risk of fraud from their employees, since the employees have access to information and assets. Each year, the average company loses 6 percent of its revenues to internal fraud, which ...

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Your number is up: Recovering from identity theft

Tracy L. Coenen Identity theft affects countless consumers and businesses each year, costing millions and maybe even billions of dollars. In 2004, the Federal Trade Commission received over 635,000 consumer fraud and identity theft complaints with reported losses of $547 million. During 2005, the FTC received 685,000 consumer identity theft complaints with reported fraud losses of over $680 million. The ...

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Surviving a tax audit

Tracy L. Coenen With tax time upon us, it seems fitting to discuss tax audits. Whether you are being audited personally or as a business owner, it can be an intimidating process. There is a right way and a wrong way to handle an audit by a state or federal taxing authority. It is easy to dig a hole for ...

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Things I’ve learned about fraud

Tracy L. Coenen For almost 12 years, I’ve been performing a variety of investigations. They have ranged from petty theft and street crimes, to tax fraud and big-time white collar crime. I’ve learned many things from both the perpetrators of crimes as well as their victims. Some of the lessons are humorous, some are educational, and some are just plain ...

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Supreme Court takes up placement issue in Landwehr case

Gregg Herman On Dec. 13, 2005, the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Landwehr v. Landwehr, 2003AP2555, a case presenting the issue of the proper standard of review when determining a motion to modify physical placement. Let’s hope the high court relies heavily upon a recent court of appeals opinion before rendering its decision in this case. Landwehr focuses ...

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Chen was significant Supreme Court decision in 2005

Gregg Herman Welcome back to the 2005 “Year in Review” for the Wisconsin appellate courts in family law. Last week I looked at a number of important decisions from the court of appeals. This week, the spotlight turns to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. While there was only one major and one minor family law decision by the justices this past ...

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Why didn’t our auditors find the fraud?

Tracy L. Coenen Companies and organizations that are hit with employee fraud, including embezzlement, asset misappropriation, and financial statement manipulation are often surprised that the incident occurred. Even more surprising to executives and boards of directors is the fact that their auditors didn’t find the fraud sooner, or didn’t find it at all. After all, isn’t that what auditors are ...

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2005 brings more kudos than criticism for court of appeals

Gregg Herman It's time for our annual review of court decisions from the past year — one last opportunity for a kick at the cat where I disagreed with the court and, much less fun, compliments where I think they got it right. This year, there are a lot more compliments than criticisms for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. Highlights ...

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Fraud Prevention 101

Tracy L. Coenen Fraud is an industry unto itself, causing annual losses to United States companies totaling at least $660 billion. While it’s easy to focus on the big losses incurred by the likes of Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom, no company is immune to the problem. Companies of all sizes are vulnerable, even though their risks may be different. The ...

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A thief among us: Lessons from Bielinski Bros.

Tracy L. Coenen During the summer of 2004, a major shakeup was occurring at the Milwaukee-area home building firm of Bielinski Brothers, Inc. Their chief financial officer, Robert Brownell, was fired along with several trusted employees, amid allegations that a complex fraud scheme had been ongoing for years. While this particular case is complex in terms of the players and ...

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Something’s missing: Recreating books, records for an audit

Tracy L. Coenen You are being audited. These are some of the most dreaded words an individual or business will ever hear from a state or federal tax auditor. They invoke fear, panic, and sometimes anger. Most of all, they create a need for documentation. Every number could be scrutinized. That means documentation must be produced to support the amount ...

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Forensic accounting: A new twist on bean counting

Tracy L. Coenen Traditional accountants and auditors have long been referred to as “bean counters.” Some may take offense at the phrase, but if they’re being honest, they admit that it is a simplistic but accurate representation of the work they do. Your average, everyday accountants and auditors are generally engaged to count the beans. They take a look at ...

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A moving case against removal law

Gregg Herman On Nov. 9, 2005, the Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill by a 57-38 vote that would substantially change Wisconsin’s removal law, greatly restricting a parent’s ability to move with a minor child. The proposed legislation, AB 400, now goes to the state Senate. Given the wide margin by which it passed the Assembly, absent prompt attention by the ...

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The eyes have it: Seeing the signs of fraud

Tracy L. Coenen Would you recognize the clues that your client has been ripped off by one of its employees? Or would management conduct business as usual, blindly trusting their employees? Companies make the mistake of not actively searching for fraud. They tend to trust their employees and trust the procedures in place to safeguard company assets. It may be ...

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Failure to increase marital estate differs from dissipation of assets

Gregg Herman Under Wisconsin divorce law, the value of property is normally determined as of the date of the divorce. As a result, there is little incentive to increase the value of the marital estate that a party will have to share with a soon-to-be-ex-spouse. At the same time, a party who dissipates assets during the divorce can held accountable ...

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Are parenting plans conducive to the best interest of the child?

You snooze, you lose. Gregg Herman This was the effect of Wisconsin's child custody and placement statute, until a recent Wisconsin Court of Appeals decision, Guelig v. Guelig, No. 2005AP346 FT (Aug. 31, 2005) (recommended for publication) considered the ramifications of the failure to file a parenting plan, as required by Wis. Stat. Sec. 767.24(1m). The statute provides that, absent ...

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