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Focus watchdog eyes on business

Tough economic times and financial fraud go hand in hand, from Charles Ponzi and his 1919 pyramid scheme in Boston to Bernie Madoff and massive investor deception.

Regardless of your beat, there never has been a better time to do business-related investigations, according to reporter Ron Campbell of The Orange County Register.

While everyone’s making money during boom times, people don’t sweat the financial details, he told 60 journalists who gathered in Salt Lake City for an IRE Better Watchdog Workshop. But during hard times, the fraud often emerges.

The deception, however, had been there the whole time waiting for enterprising journalists to uncover it, Campbell said.

In addition to traditional business documents such as Securities and Exchange Commission filings, he encouraged journalists to scour other information on businesses and key leaders, including:

  • Delinquent business property taxes, often an early sign of financial trouble.
  • Lawsuits and official complaints, including landlord-tenant cases and contract disputes.
  • Divorce filings, which can provide telling details about spending and relationships.
  • Bankruptcy Court documents, which include detailed assets and liabilities as well as an insider explanation of what really went wrong.

Doug Haddix, IRE training director

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