Peers and clients say:
“Jean-Michel is methodical and deeply immersed in the work”
“He has integrity, honesty and deep knowledge”
"He is able to make complex accounting issues simple”
Jean-Michel Ferat is a senior managing director at Ankura with over 25 years of experience in the specialised fields of forensic accounting, fraud detection and data analytics. He has applied his skills in a variety of cases involving corruption, kickbacks, collusive bidding rings, money laundering, embezzlement, asset misappropriation, terrorist financing and financial statement fraud. He participated in reactive investigations and proactive compliance engagements, including Foreign Corrupt Practices Act monitorships, across the United States and in over 25 countries around the world.
What do you enjoy most about working in the white-collar crime space as an expert?
My career has allowed me to travel the world from Santiago to Nouakchott to Stellenbosch to Tokyo and many places in between. I have met many wonderful people along the way that have enriched me both personally and professionally.
How has the role of forensic accountant changed since you started your career?
When I began this career in the mid-90s, forensic accountants were in fact accredited accountants. Nowadays, many professionals that identify with this professional category are not accountants at all but include “reformed lawyers”, compliance professionals, technologists, risk managers etc. This evolution is reflective of the fact that our line of work is not just about debits and credits anymore.
How do you prepare for large-scale and high-profile forensic investigations?
A top-down review of the organisation is really critical before jumping into the weeds. Understanding how the organisation is structured both functionally and geographically and how it is governed are good places to start. Also, understanding a company’s ERP landscape and the results of its internal risk assessment processes can help the team get up to speed on key issues quickly.
What are the most exciting developments in data analytics that practitioners should be aware of?
We have been hearing about AI for years and increasingly about how it can be applied to the regulatory compliance environment. More interesting (and likely more critical) is how we ensure that the ongoing development of AI is done with the right guardrails in place and that AI development itself is subjected to the proper oversight and compliance mechanisms.
What are the greatest challenges inherent in leading teams reviewing global anti-corruption compliance programmes of large multinationals?
The greatest challenge in undertaking large cross-border reviews is ensuring that you have a cohesive and collaborative team across the globe. Consistency in approach and execution is critical in identifying trends, themes or one-off red flags in specific locations.
What do clients like the World Bank, SEC and Fortune 100 companies look for in forensic experts?
I think that most clients appreciate three key traits in an expert: (1) know your stuff, (2) get your hands dirty and (3) communicate effectively.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
I spent four years as the forensic accounting expert on the audit committee of the Global Fund to fight Aids, TB and Malaria, which was an incredibly rewarding experience. I have also been focused for the last several years working on governance, compliance and operations projects for large development finance institutions, corporates and PE firms focused on developmental impact, mainly in the developing world. I would like to continue to give back to worthy organisations and apply my skills in ways that can help drive efficiencies and impact.