Chapter Leader Profile: Robert Cohen, CFE, CPA

For nearly 25 years, Robert Cohen has volunteered his time serving the Philadelphia Area Chapter. As training director, he not only organizes the local events, but also takes on the responsibility of mentoring new members, CFEs and even other chapter leaders. Most recently, he will be helping shape the direction of our chapters as the head of our newly formed Chapter Leaders Committee. 

What do you do for a living?
I am a CPA licensed in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida. I have had my own firm for the past 26 years and have clients in 22 states throughout the U.S. I have also been involved in numerous litigation engagements over the years and have used the knowledge that I gained from being a member of the ACFE. Before starting my firm, I worked for large regional and international CPA firms. I was an audit partner at the last firm I worked before starting my practice and I co-headed a securities division within the firm.

Why did you decide to enter the anti-fraud field?
It was the investigation of an embezzlement which piqued my interest. Throughout my career, and once I started my firm, I started getting more involved in litigation cases. In the 1990s, the accounting profession began seeing more frauds, and I knew this was a field that would be in demand for many years to come.  

How has the CFE credential benefited your career?
The CFE credential has given me a distinct advantage. I have noticed this from litigation cases I have been involved with that went to trial. In my experience, there are two experts: one for the plaintiff and one for the defendant. If one expert is only a CPA and the other expert is a CPA and a CFE, once juries become aware of what the CFE credential entails, juries tend to put a higher level of credence in the testimony of the CFE. Also, being both a CFE and a chapter leader has given me name recognition. I have had the good fortune of having cases recommended to me because of these facts.

How long have you been involved with the chapter?
I joined the Philadelphia Area Chapter in May 1993. I have been the training director for the last 13 years. Throughout my time on the board, I have also served as treasurer and president. 

Why did you become active with the chapter and the board?
I had been involved with litigation support on a much smaller scale and wanted to improve my skills in this area. I first learned about the ACFE from the Florida CPA Today magazine. After doing some due diligence, I took a couple of ACFE courses to enhance my knowledge. I realized the worth of belonging to a professional organization of this caliber. After joining the chapter, I realized that I could help the chapter with my knowledge of nonprofit organizations. I volunteered to help at several chapter events and I was eventually invited to join the board. This enabled me to give back to others through my involvement in the chapter.

What has been a highlight during your time on the board?
I have had the unique opportunity to see the Philadelphia Area Chapter grow from less than 50 members when I joined the board of directors to become one of the most respected ACFE chapters. Since joining the board, I have incorporated the chapter as a nonprofit organization, filed and obtained tax-exempt status for the chapter from the IRS and established the chapter as a program sponsor with the national state boards of accountancy. I have also had the opportunity to develop a majority of the internal forms the chapter uses in its day-to-day operations.

What are the benefits of serving as a chapter leader?
It has allowed me to mentor younger CFEs and CFE candidates, interact with other local professional organizations and to give back to the community. I have also been able to consult and be a valuable resource for other ACFE chapters throughout the U.S.

What goals would you like to help the chapter accomplish?
I would like to help the chapter continue to grow its membership base and develop younger directors to assume more leadership roles so that there will be a smooth transition for the future success of the chapter.

Do you have any advice for other chapter leaders?
Don’t hesitate to ask for help. The ACFE has a wealth of resources and networking opportunities. Somewhere among leaders from other chapters, officers and directors have encountered the same or similar problems to the ones you might be facing. In addition, the Chapter Leaders community on the ACFE website will provide you a forum to raise questions and elicit responses from other chapter directors. Finally, get involved and attend the Chapter Leaders Meeting at the ACFE Global Fraud Conference. This will allow you to hear other perspectives and interact with fellow chapter leaders.

What are your favorite activities and hobbies outside of work?
I am an avid sports fan. I love college and professional football, basketball, professional baseball and hockey.

What is your personal motto? Does it have any special meaning?
Always be willing to help someone else. Throughout my professional career, I have had a few important mentors who have taken the time to show me how to do things and who have helped shaped my professional growth. I believe in paying it forward and being a mentor to other people so that they may have the opportunities that I have had in my professional career.

What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
Besides my family, the opportunity to impact the Philadelphia Area Chapter for as many years as I have been involved with them and to leave systems and procedures in place which I designed. This will help the chapter to continue to grow after I am no longer able to be part of the chapter.