The Shard, 32 London Bridge Street
SE1 9SG, London, England
Peers and clients say:
"Steve is one of the best known asset recovery practitioners"
"He has a prestigious track record as an investigator"
"He is efficient and effective"
Steve has worked in the forensic accounting sector for over 25 years. He is a specialist in investigation and has a wide range of experience of litigation and disputes. He has extensive experience of asset tracing and investigations involving money laundering, corruption and investment fraud. Steve has provided evidence in court in criminal and commercial cases, international arbitrations and professional disciplinary hearings in relation to funds tracing, the quantification of damages and financial reporting matters.
In your view, what are the challenges surrounding investigating the circumstances surrounding insolvency?
The insolvency process has always required a commercial outlook rather than being bogged down in a game of “Whodunnit?”. I will typically only be involved in insolvency matters when they are contentious. In these cases, it is very rare to be presented with a complete set of accounting records and the evidence of where missing funds and assets have gone. I was brought up on “brown paper bag” audits and, as cases have grown more complex, the work involved in putting the pieces back together has grown significantly. Also, the volumes of information available are immense, and key evidence is often found in e-mails and electronic files. As such, there is a great deal of information that is potentially relevant to the outcome of the investigation. Often, it’s a question about how much evidence is sufficient and whether everything needs to be looked at. It’s about striking a balance between the extent of the work required and the commercial outcome to provide the best options for recovery.
What steps is Kroll taking to help develop its younger experts?
Being an expert witness seems to be one of the few roles these days where a head of grey hair is seen as an advantage. However, we have a very talented team of younger experts all ready to demonstrate their skills in a court environment. It sometimes feels that we are getting stuck in a vicious circle with clients unwilling to appoint experts without court experience but younger experts not being able to get that experience without getting the appointments. However, clients also want experts who are properly expert, sometimes in very narrowly defined circumstances, and this has helped bring some new faces to the fore. It is important to identify opportunities where new talent can step up and provide support throughout the process while the experience is built up.
How do you establish a detailed understanding of a client’s business to assist them effectively?
For me, it’s a mix of experience and going back to basics. I started my training contract over 30 years ago and in that time have advised a multitude of businesses in various sectors and jurisdictions. I can usually fall back on some relevant case experience to help understand a client’s business. If not, it’s back to debits and credits, revenue and costs, and assets and liabilities. If that fails, there is a great breadth and depth of experience in the Kroll team and I can usually find somebody that knows more than me.
To what extent do you see a need to reform current laws for them to be in pace with the sophistication of cybercrime?
To some extent, there will always an element of catch-up involved. Fraudsters will always be pushing the limits and it is very difficult to anticipate where these changes are going to come from. More often it’s a case of how we respond. It’s now fairly routine, for example, to deal with crypto assets in a recovery situation. Also, orders against “persons unknown” are now regularly obtained. Plus, victims of push payment fraud are testing the procedures of the banks accepting the funds as a means of making recovery. Usually, the law is already there; it just needs some thought about how it is applied.
What attributes make for an effective expert witness in today’s climate?
By the time that a matter gets to court, the experts will have already met and agreed whatever they are able to agree. After this, in my experience, the expert’s role is primarily to play defence to support the position that you have put forward as there is little opportunity to simply present a positive case. This can be frustrating. However, it is important to be flexible and this requires both a broad understanding of the matter as well as a grasp of the specific details of the case. The mix of the high-level overview and understanding of the detail is, in my opinion, key. It is also a question of knowing your limits and what you are expert in. I have seen examples of “mission creep” taking an expert outside their specific areas of expertise, and this should be avoided as it impacts the expert’s credibility and the client’s case.