Whether you are an accounting professional or an executive, having access to company resources and bank accounts can put you in a perilous position. If the company has financial issues, it may begin to look at internal practices more closely and might even take legal action against some of its staff members.
Although such efforts won’t necessarily fix the financial circumstances for the company, they at least show efforts to resolve financial issues that can assuage concerned investors or owners. There are a couple of situations in which a worker could wind up facing accusations of fraud or embezzlement when they didn’t do anything different from what their co-workers did on the job.
Creative use of company funds might lead to embezzlement claims
Maybe when you first started the job, the person training you to take over their position explained to you that everyone in the department uses their business credit card for certain personal purchases. Perhaps you were told that filling your own gas tank with the corporate fleet card was a perk of your job, and so you never questioned the practice.
While the company may have tolerated those questionable charges and write-offs in normal circumstances, if they go through an audit or otherwise encounter financial hardship, they may try to hold employees accountable for behavior they long ignored. You can face embezzlement allegations for using company resources for personal use, even if you have done it throughout your career and other people at the company do the same.
Certain financial transactions may open the door to fraud allegations
Whether you arrange purchases from other companies or handle outgoing wire transfers, it’s possible that you could wind up making a mistake or performing a task that leaves you at risk of fraud charges. You might do exactly what your manager asked you to do over the phone, but then it becomes your word against theirs regarding who initiated that particular wire transfer.
Especially if the company seems to have recently gone through financial hardship or if it has increased its scrutiny of worker behaviors, ensure that you don’t complete any transactions without all of the proper authorizing paperwork and instructions from the necessary parties in writing to protect yourself.
If someone at your company wants to use you as a scapegoat for financial losses or other issues, you may need to defend yourself, possibly against criminal charges. Discussing your concerns about white-collar criminal charges with a lawyer can help you start planning a defense and avoid making mistakes that will put you at risk in the future.