What do you do after you have been fired for not committing fraud

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Employer asking me to commit fraudIt is great that our profession says we are not allowed to commit fraud. I was recently fired because I refused to fraudulently charge out a grant. I now have no references. I am forced to sue them and spend a significant amount of money to do so but I feel like the victim who has stolen my career and taken my job to support my family. Any recommendations?

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Proformative Advisor
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Besides legal action (both criminal, administrative and civil), you may want to take a PR approach (talk with your attorney). However, even though you may be 100% right, a PR approach could backfire.

Otherwise, pick yourself up and look for new employment.

When asked why you left your last job (again with consultation with your attorney) give them a high brow answer. take the high road, don't seem bitter; have them see a professional who is ready to embark on a new chapter in your life and see how you can enrich yourself, your family and your new employer.

Hello,

I want to take a moment to let you know that I truly feel for the situation you are in. It is not an easy place to be in. I know it hurts when it feels like you're being punished for doing the right thing.

I think the most important thing to keep in mind is - you can look yourself in the mirror. You did the right thing. In a world where karma can come back to bite you, it is ALWAYS better to do the right thing.

I can also let you know that you are not alone. I speak with many CFOs, and I come across a few stories a year that blow my mind.

Ensure that you have good legal counsel that will not only allow you to defend yourself and protect your reputation and career, but will provide you with good guidance.

I have discussed many times that a CFO should always be nurturing their network. Situations like the one you are in now can allow you to call upon your network. People that know you and like you can be your biggest supporters in your current situation. They can vouch for you, and maybe even give you the next chance. A strong network will allow you to move on.

But this is just advice. You need strength to get through your situation. I wish you plenty of strength.

Just know - you did the right thing.

Samuel

Topic Expert
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That is a tough situation, and I congratulate you on taking the high road.

You might think about exploiting your ethical stand and using it as the basis of a strong and compelling brand. While not all CEOs want a Finance Executive who will stand firm, there are CEOs, Investors, and Shareholders who do. Rather than letting it be an obstacle, use it to your advantage.

I wish you all the best!

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Tough to make a recommendation with so few facts,but here are few general ideas:
1. You did the right thing...don't beat yourself up over that
2. Retain a good attorney and have him/her let them know you have representation
3. You mentioned grant money which implies a public agency of some sort which means there is a board of directors...there has been a breach of trust and that needs to be revealed because this will only get worse...what the board does with the information is up to them
4. Go to your network of business associates and friends and take the high road. Just say that you didn't feel as though there was a good growth path and that it didn't make sense to stay somewhere that wasn't going to work out for you...if your attorney does the job right in 2 above, there won't be any bad references...there might be none, but they won't turn bad until it's too late to change the story

Good luck.

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I also "did the right thing" years ago in my previous job. Two good things came out of it and two not so good. The two good things are 1. I can look in the mirror and be happy with myself. 2. I put negative activities by someone onto senior management's radar and in a few months that person was no longer with the firm, so I protected my department, my subordinates and the organisation from the hell being caused. The negatives were in that doing so 1. My career ground to a halt and and 2. My best employee left in the interim.

Take a look at Sherry Hunt's story in the whole mortgage mess - It'll give you hope.

Good Luck.

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With respect to your job search, are there other former employees who would vouch for your quality of work without getting into the details of your dispute with the company? Also are there any 3rd party vendors that you could call upon to get a reference? This is a way to overcome the lack of a reference from your former employer.

Also, I would second Wayne's comment that you cannot market yourself if you carry an aura of bitterness. I would try to frame your situation that you had a difference of opinion with regard to strategic direction.

Best of luck in finding your next opportunity.

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You absolutely did the right thing. You can contact www.whistleblowers.org to read about the process and connect with others. You may also want to consider being a guest speaker or writing about your situation. I am the President of the Greater Chicago Chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and our organization would like to talk with you. Contact us at www.acfechicago.org. To read about our international organization, please visit www.acfe.com.

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Others have offered excellent suggestions. People get fired all the time. You did nothing illegal so hold your head high and move forward.

Your first challenge is overcoming the psychological impact of what has happened. It may take time to get over the anger and bitterness but that is your top priority. Otherwise, your residual feelings can easily poison networking and interviewing activities. Develop, and practice until you believe it, a very clear and concise “reason for leaving” statement that doesn’t demean your former employer or supervisor. Avoid volunteering too much information or explaining circumstances. As your next hiring manager, I am primarily concerned about why you’re the best person to solve a problem and make my life easier. Define and focus on your future goals then develop plans to reach them. There’s no room for being a victim (your word).

Consider carefully and reevaluate periodically your decision about legal action. Don’t forget the economic adage: sunk costs are irrelevant. You were not forced to take this step, you chose to do so. Don’t delude yourself about the distinction. Legal action is costly and drags on much longer than it should. It can consume your time, energies and thoughts, all of which could be better devoted to building your future. Even if you win, the justice, revenge, fairness and economic rationales for suing may seem much less important by the time matters are settled. (BTDT).

Proformative Advisor
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I had a similar situation years ago.
Legal action is risky and expensive. If the company/manager was willing to commit fraud in their financial statements, they are probably equally willing to fabricate stories about your actions and abilities. (I did consult with an attorney in my situation and they advised that cases like this are hard to prove, and I should be willing to spend $50-75K with no guarantee of winning or recovering my legal costs if I did.) The best course is to move on.
In terms of references, the best thing you can do is contact previous employers, co-workers, or third parties (legal counsel, outside accountants, vendors, etc.) for references in your job search. As others have said, your explanation for leaving should be succinct and not bitter - growth path or strategic differences in the goals of the company are good reasons.

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You must feel intense hurt and as you can read from all of the comments, every one sympathizes. In my humble view, Randy Miller's advice is to the point. Only you can decide what additional burden, financial or otherwise, you are willing to take on and why you should. For example, are the people who did this to you worth you damaging your pocketbook & health for a legal battle the outcome of which may be "iffy" based on comments above? [I'm not a labor attorney and know nothing about the situation outside of what's portrayed here] It took great courage and fortitude of character to stand up and say "no, I will not commit fraud". You can look at yourself in the mirror every day and see someone you are proud of. If there are only 2 choices open to you, sue or not sue, only you can decide based upon your circumstances. Also keep in mind that if a prospective employer calls your former employer, they may not legally say anything more than your name, title and dates of employment. They cannot say whether or not you were fired and for what reason. And as a few people mentioned above, obtain some good references; it rarely hurts. Thank you and good luck!!

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Thank you for all your comments. Most of them I have already started. Moving on to me is easy. Just wanted to get some opinions. Again, thanks.

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Ask your attorney if he/she would like to contact the whistleblower line for you or the agency that was going to be hurt by the attempt to defraud them. Let them prosecute your former employer and set an example to those leaders who can't behave. I had a situation like this, I called the FBI and SEC and the two ring leaders got 12 and 15 years in Club Fed. I was not asked to be a witness, I just gave them enough to take it from there, and they did.
If I had not contacted the Feds, I would not have gotten closure.

Proformative Advisor
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Easier said than done - "Get rid of the emotional element." Find out exactly what they will tell people when they are called to validate your employment. Just ask them.

It is common in many industries that when an employee is released for cause, the company does not wish to air their dirty laundry. When someone calls for validation the company will only confirm dates of employment and nothing else.

If you have evidence of gross malfeasance (very hard to prove) – feel free to go down the road of lawyer and whistleblower. But if you risk a “he said” she said” you will loose and damage your reputation in the process.

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For those that are reading. I have hired a lawyer, the organization did give a small package but they wanted me to sign the usual forms. My lawyer informed me that this was only to protect them. That they needed to sign forms on my behalf, if not they could try to put the blame on me. After I settle but not full litigation. I will whistle blow to the feds. This is a federal grant we are talking about. I do have hard evidence facts dates etc. I have been documenting everything for 8 months. They already have two law suites against them for non-performance and overall are just bad leaders. They hide and misinform the board, so the board is clueless. I did call one board member who basically ignored me. I did let the current auditors know but I can not contact them while I am trying to reach a settlement.

Going forward. when someone calls an old employer and they yes they worked her and they worked here for 8 years and that is the only comment that is a death sentence on the employment front especially when you are a controller working in 6 figures. What would you think if someone had these kinds of references. I do have colleagues and auditors and prior bosses all lined up. I don't want to say lack of growth because it sounds bad that I am not working. That is an excuse for when you are still working. I am looking for a good explanation that allows me to look good but not be disgruntled. Any suggestions? Remember I need to get by the HR folks first. So if you are a hiring person and a controller came across your desk in this situation what saying would make you hire this person.

It would be nice if there was a way the AICPA could set up a process to help all the accounting professional that get stuck in this situation. I mean it has to be real and believable. Somewhere I can just say that my profession is supporting me and I needed to leave. I mean they require us to not do something wrong or we could loose our license.

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I lost two jobs for the same reason you did within nine months and decided to work on my own. I did not regret what I did and neither should you. Sleep well. Well done.

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Yes, Ronald me too, two jobs in less than a year. The AICPA needs to do more to educate consumers, customers and businesses to BEWARE of doing business with a company without a CPA/CFO on staff !!!

How about a BBB of sorts for whether the company has ethics in place - a rating system - CPA on staff - CPA ratio to total employees, whether audited statements are prepared by outside accountants, and what kind of oversight the company has?

And this should be done for private companies, not just public. - and BTW, I met a CFO who is a CFA, not a CPA - are their ethics as stringent? Is this a way around for some companies?

Is this the "new" economy? I'm getting a bit dissolutioned...

I am now working on building my own practice - wish me luck.

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I also lost two jobs due to personal and professional integrity and an unwillingness to commit fraud. Although I am self employed now (many years later), I was able to land other good jobs after each termination. I recommend that, as suggested previously, you take the high road and present yourself as a professional with personal and prefessional ethics and integrity. If someone won't hire you because of that, you don't want to work for them anyway. That sort of person lacks integrity themselves and would just put you in that same situation all over again. Don't be embarrassed or ashamed. YOU are the one with honesty and integrity.

As others have suggested, talk with an attorney to get your options and determine if it is worth the effort to sue. But don't get bogged down with the legal process. Focus on doing everything associated with landing a new job.

Proformative Advisor
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Good job on taking the high road. Now put the focus on your career accomplishments and don't make this event the major thesis in getting your next job. If asked directly about it, you will have to come clean on it and describe it very matter of factly. If you use it as a "soap box" for your stand, no one will take you seriously. Construct an answer that is one to two sentences giving explicit detail on why the termination occurred. Don't sound vindictive or embarrassed, but state it very matter of factly and they will respect you as a candidate.

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Tough Situation that I personally experienced just a couple years ago. I resigned a controller position because of my ethics and what I was being asked to do with the financial reporting in a public company. Since that time I have struggled financially, have only been able to find contract assignments, but still feel good about the decision I made at the time. The legal, unemployment and health insurance system in this situation is of little assistance to me as I resigned of my own accord. Unfortunately, being fired might be the best course of action to hold in this situation.

As others of mentioned, hold your head high and continue your efforts.

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Could the fraud that you were asked to commit be considered as a criminal offense (& if not, why not)? If so, surely this is more than a simple case of employee relations that has can result in civil action?

Proformative Advisor
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Civil actions cost money (in some parts of the country an action starts at the $10,000 level and just keeps increasing), which is why some of the most egregious of acts go either un-reported or un-compensated.

However, if this is a criminal act and you have proof, the Prosecutor's office may be interested... and may not.

Good Luck,

Wayne
http://www.sbaconsulting.com/management.html

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Anonymous -

If this is a 501C3 foundation that gives out grants, they are bound by federal and state guidelines, and by their auditor's signing off on their audit. Having worked for a foundation myself, I don't know of any reputable audit firm who would sign off on that - that is - if they knew about it. Get where I'm going? Hope this helped. Also, maybe you can use the accounting firm as a reference. Good luck.

Helen Rosen

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Dear Madam/ Sir

I first salute the courage you had to say no to Fraud, not many can do that especially in the present scenario where jobs are scarce and the economy in turmoil

I am not making any remark or any pun on you ...I completely understand the situation you are

Please do not go ahead and sue, it is of no use at all, just let go

Search a new job and if this was your first job then please go back to your college and school and get the reference from them, ask your friends in your previous company

Be positive (it is the toughest thing to do ) it is like your hand is cut and you cannot do anything to the culprit

Just stay away from the people who wanted you to do the fraud....do not bad mouth it will only do bad for you

Mediate it helps.....you do not need to be religious to mediate

good luck and god bless you

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Your attorney could be a positive professional reference.

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Dear Anonymous,

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. I thought about suing my prior employer as well, but the cost benefit wasn't there. Too much risk in paying a bunch of legal fees and not getting a favorable judgement.

With respect to interviewing for your next position, see if there are vendors, suppliers or ex-employees who would vouch for you about the time you worked with them.

As for responding to the interview question, "why did you leave your last position?" I simply stated that I had a disagreement on the strategic direction of the company and the parting was not amicable. If the interviewer pressed the issue, I would comment that as much as I'd like to get along with 100% of people I meet 100% of the time, there are just some times where I don't see eye to eye with a particular individual.

Best of luck getting reestablished in the workforce.

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Unfortunately, the record of whistleblower success is far less than the few big cases one reads about in the news. In fact, government agencies like the IRS sometimes perversely resist and delay paying whistleblowers (see http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2013/09/30/grassley-blows-whistle-on-irs-whistleblower-program/).

Despite the laudatory aspects of acting ethically, potential hiring managers tend to shy away from taking a risk on someone that has some controversy with a prior employer.

A question to ask in ethically-challenged situations is whether you can protect yourself without resigning or being fired. For example, can you request via email that the perpetrator/executive verify the action s/he desires you to take because in your perception it may run afoul of regulation xyz? If the perpetrator answers yes, then you go ahead and follow orders but then you can blow the whistle confidentially with more documented proof and you still have your job until they figure out it was you. If the perpetrator storms into your office to order you verbally to proceed, then you can send a follow-up email that you will follow those orders. In either case, you do the whistleblowing afterwards while employed.

Any thoughts on this approach?

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Perps avoid putting such requests in writing. And, as to your email stating that you will "follow their orders" after verbal instructions: They'll just say you misunderstood or, intentionally took the action you did against their advice. Hearsay is not credible.

Also, if you take a stance like this, and push hard, you'll end up without a job anyway. The management standard - and I am a C level manager - is to not fire an employee, but make their life miserable until they quit.

It sucks, I know. And I don't like it any more than anyone else. It is demoralizing to the organization. But, it is done all the time.

Self employment looks better all the time. Then you have no one but yourself to blame for failure. :-)