Knowledge and Insights

Data Analytics: A Valuable Investigative Tool

Data and Charts on Laptop

“Time is money” is an age-old expression deeply rooted in the lexicon of most individuals and businesses, especially those that derive their income by providing a service to others. In forensic and litigation support engagements, some of the most daunting tasks involve the procurement and analysis of large, disparate datasets. The ability to efficiently combine and analyze these datasets to identify relationships, patterns and anomalies could significantly reduce the amount of time and money spent to investigate and/or litigate.

In today’s ever-evolving litigious society, the increasing complexity of organizations results in a need for equally-sophisticated data analysis software to assist practitioners with their analysis of datasets of inordinate size. In these cases, efficiencies and high-quality deliverables can be maintained by leveraging the capabilities provided through the use of data analytics and mining techniques. Programs such as Caseware IDEA, ACL and other data analysis solutions allow for the seamless collection, organization, assessment and analysis of data to provide a clear understanding of the story it tells.

By way of a real-world example, data analysis software played a critical role in a forensic investigation involving a captive vendor/shell company scheme perpetrated by an insider. Knowing that our client was able to provide an employee list containing unique identifiers, such as home addresses and telephone numbers, along with a vendor list containing the same data elements, we utilized a data analysis solution that joined and compared both datasets in seconds. This data exercise resulted in the detection of numerous matches among the separate datasets, leading to the identification of potentially-suspect vendors, warranting further investigation. Other anomalies, outliers, duplicates, patterns and relationships were also identified through the use of related data analysis functions, which led to the discovery of additional evidence with probative value. The use of such data analysis software affords practitioners the ability to streamline the data normalization process by grouping data and filtering numerous rows and columns of information, while maintaining the integrity of the source data. Often, clients are not aware of the time and energy spent normalizing data and preparing it for analysis.

Commonly known programs, such as Microsoft Excel, offer similar data analysis functions but usually pale in comparison to those specifically designed to detect potential data gaps and instances of control failures such as fraud, waste and abuse. The flexible import processes of more advanced data analysis software programs, coupled with the data integrity aspects, allow for maximum efficiency and, therefore, immediate cost savings. Data analysis is helpful when tasked with developing a complete and accurate record to justify a business decision, identifying fraud, and supporting legal actions that might follow. In certain cases, data analysis software can also be helpful in gathering additional information to identify deficiencies in internal controls and business processes or to mitigate other business risks that surface.

At Mercadien, our forensic and litigation support professionals leverage sophisticated data analysis tools and techniques to analyze and compare large datasets from a variety of sources. Adhering to industry best practices and forensic protocols, our experts investigate and uncover facts that dramatically impact the outcome of investigations and lawsuits.

To learn more about how you might benefit from these services, please do not hesitate to contact us at (609) 689-9700.