Year

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Accounting, Economics and Finance

Abstract

This thesis explores the role of forensic accountant experts in assisting a court in its understanding of financial transactions and other accounting-related matters including: matrimonial disputes; valuation; fraud-related matters; unexplained wealth; and confiscation of proceeds of criminal activities. Forensic accountant experts use accounting technology when reconstructing facts and requirements pertaining to the admissibility in court of the expert opinion of a forensic accountant. How a court determines what makes someone an expert through their training, education, experience, expertise; and how a court determines whether expert opinion is based on a recognised body of knowledge, is also explored. Additionally, the thesis examines the appropriateness of the methodology forensic accountant experts‘ use (including assumptions) and relevance of an expert report to the specific facts of a case.

The thesis draws on case law in Australia, United Kingdom, and United States, to demonstrate the criteria the judiciary have set for acceptance of expert opinion - with a specific focus on accounting. This issue has more to do with the specifics of each individual case rather than different treatments in court. Three leading cases dealing with admissibility of expert evidence are Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc, 509 U.S. 579; 113 S. Ct. 2786; 125 L. Ed. 2d 469, 1993 U.S. (No. 92–102) (Daubert (USA)); National Justice Compania Naviera SA v Prudential Assurance Co. Ltd [1993] 2 Lloyd‟s Rep 68 (the Ikarian Reefer (UK)) and Makita (Australia) Pty Ltd v Sprowles [2001] NSWCA 305; (2001) 52 NSWLR 7 (Makita Australia). These three leading cases are referred to in each of these jurisdictions.

The thesis adopts as its research framework the three-tiered framework of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) proposed by Fairclough (1992): analysis of discourse as text, analysis of discourse as discursive practice, and analysis of discourse as social practice. These three tiers deal with the discursive construction of communicative processes, the pragmatics of discourse, and the interpretation of social authority in court. The sovereignty of a court is manifest in ways that are revealed through analysis of the discourse of judicial reasoning and decisions regarding the evidence of an independent forensic accountant expert witness. The thesis concludes by demonstrating the importance of the role of forensic accountant experts in assisting a court in matters pertaining to financial affairs.

The thesis contribution is threefold. First, it contributes to accounting literature on the role of forensic accountant expert in assisting a court. There is limited accounting literature on this matter. Second, the thesis demonstrates how Fairclough‘s Critical Discourse Analysis can be used beneficially as a research framework in the discursive construction of the role of forensic accountant experts and the influence of a court during its decision making on different interpretations of accounting-related matters. Finally, the results of the analysis pertaining to the requirements of the admissibility of forensic accountant experts‘ opinion in court will assist forensic accountant experts in performing their role of assisting a court.

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