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Leading the Charge in Forensic Innovation: A Q&A with Eli Neal of 4 Corners Financial Forensics

We sat down with Eli Neal, CPA, ABV, CFF & Principal at 4 Corners Financial Forensics to discuss how their firm handles complex financial cases.
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How does a small forensic accounting firm seamlessly integrate cutting-edge technology to revolutionize the way they handle complex financial cases? Recently, we sat down with Eli Neal, CPA, ABV, CFF and Principal at 4 Corners Financial Forensics for a Q & A. 

Their firm excels in the realms of forensic accounting, business valuations, and assessing economic damages, among other complex financial matters. By adopting cutting-edge practices, notably their utilization of the Valid8 platform, they streamline data preparation processes. This efficiency allows for a deeper focus on insightful analysis, maximizing the value of their expertise in tackling intricate financial challenges. 

How long has Four Corners been working with Valid8?

Our first project is dated October, 2021. So, I guess two and a half years now.

Can you give us some insight into the core principles guiding Four Corners in managing complex financial cases?

Our core philosophy revolves around alignment; it’s critically important that we’re on the same page with the attorneys that hire us and their clients needing assistance. We really focus on the intersection between the attorney’s strategy, the client’s perspective, and how we can act as a tool in their toolbox. Ensuring that we are aligned is central to our approach.

Also, the precision and clarity of our financial work is super important. We strive to ensure our numbers are perfectly accurate, and it’s critical that we can clearly communicate our findings to a judge or jury. For example, if it’s believed that millions of dollars were stolen, our methods need to confirm those figures accurately and clearly, making the information we provide both useful and reliable for our clients and the courts.

With the rapid advancement of technology and AI, how have you seen changes in your industry, particularly regarding innovation?

We are definitely at a significant turning point in adopting new technologies. Our firm is made up of mostly millennials, and we are passionate about harnessing cutting-edge technology to enhance our effectiveness. Over the last five to ten years, it has become possible to manage and analyze data at scales we couldn't before.

For example, there was a project where we uploaded 41,000 bank transactions—something that would have been impossible previously. At my last job, our approach to large data sets involved sampling a portion of the data and projecting that sample across the entire set. Now, with Valid8, we can precisely account for every single transaction, which is a powerful tool when we need to present detailed evidence in court.

Let’s talk more about this example. How did the use of Valid8 change your capacity to manage such extensive data?

That particular project was a game changer for our firm because, as I was telling someone recently, it would not have been possible for us to take it on before Valid8. It would have monopolized our small team for months just handling manual data entry from bank statements into a database. We would have likely just had to pass on the project, citing that it was a project for a much larger firm.

However, with Valid8, what was once an impossibility for our firm became doable. We were able to leverage the platform to manage the extensive data without worrying about errors typically associated with such large-scale manual data entry. This capability significantly expanded the types of projects we can accept and successfully execute.

What about outsourcing to manage workload during large projects?

 Well, it’s about more than just bandwidth—it’s also about reliability and trust. I never have gone down the path of outsourcing, as the work we do requires a high level of assurance and precision. There are real challenges in cross-examination if the other attorney is asking, “How do you really know all 41,000 transactions? Who input them? You couldn't have done it, so who did it?” And then you would have to say, “Oh, firm ABC from XYZ,” to which they would respond, “And then how well do you know them?” It’s not a situation we’ve ever wanted to find ourselves in.

At my previous firm, we once had to rely on trusted family members like my old boss's son-in-law and even my mother for data entry on a large project. Valid8 has proven far more reliable than makeshift arrangements like those!

Can you speak to the value Valid8 offers for categorization of transactions and financial reporting?

Valid8 simplifies the process significantly. During the discovery phase, for example, when we receive hundreds of PDFs, often mismatched and out of order, Valid8 helps by performing a time period check, instantly alerting us to any missing documents. This feature alone saves us considerable time and effort.

Categorization

Another great thing about Valid8 is how it pulls in all the transaction details, which can be really tricky to manage manually. It's kind of like looking at your personal bank statements, where you see random things pop up—like a coffee from Starbucks.

But once all that data is in Valid8, identifying and categorizing these transactions becomes  super easy. We can spot a Starbucks charge, filter for every Starbucks transaction instantly, and tag them all in one go. This seriously cuts down our data analysis time. Manually entering each transaction description is usually a huge time sink, but with Valid8, it's all right there at our fingertips.

Now, when we see a bunch of transactions from places like Amazon or Starbucks that need sorting, we handle it in a minute instead of what used to feel like forever. That efficiency is huge.

Financial Reporting

The real value of the financial activity report comes in its ability to showcase every single transaction in a PDF. This is incredibly useful, especially in cases with a massive amount of transactions. Take for instance a divorce case we handled, where the wife really didn't have a clear picture of where their money had gone over the last five years. A court order required us to scrutinize every transaction since 2018 across 20 different accounts, totaling 14,800 transactions. Thanks to Valid8, we managed it all.

By the end, we could lay out every transaction that had occurred, which provided a lot of reassurance to the wife who was unsure about the money flows. We addressed every question she had and cross-referenced the transactions with her husband’s earnings to verify his income from paychecks.

We could see that the deposits in the bank accounts matched up; there were no missing funds or unexplained transactions.

The outcome? They settled the case because of the clarity we provided. Every query was resolved, illustrating just how comprehensive and effective our process can be once we put in the work with Valid8.

What would you say to those in your field who are skeptical about adopting platforms like Valid8, especially considering the potential disruption to the billable hours model?

So here's how I see it: I've got two young daughters—one just turned five, the other's nearly three. I really want to spend my time doing excellent work for my clients and also being with them. This means if I can avoid sitting in the basement, tirelessly entering data manually, it significantly adds value to my life. Plus, I've found that with large, complex projects , you can get so inundated by the minutiae that by the time everything is entered, you’re exhausted, and doing the analysis isn’t as fun as it typically is. You end up just wanting to finish and move on to anything else.

That's what I appreciate about using Valid8. Our firm is always busy, and this tool helps us stay sharp, diving right into the vital, complex analysis without any burnout. We get to start with high-quality work right away. It lets us focus on the engaging parts of our job — the parts I love — right from the start, skipping over the tedious bits that can really drag a project down.

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