The Columns

Science, Society and the Arts Presents: Matthew Rickert ‘18 Matthew Rickert ‘18: avid outdoorsman by day, corporate fraud analyst by night

— by on March 17th, 2017

“W&L is a campus with a plethora of interests and ideas. We have students interested in everything, and not just their major. This means that people want to share what they know and others want to learn something that they wouldn’t be able to take a class on.”

Meet Matthew Rickert ‘18, an avid outdoorsman by day, corporate fraud analyst by night

Science, Society, and the Arts is a multi-disciplinary conference where Washington and Lee undergraduates and law students present their academic achievements before an audience of their peers and the faculty. Through the conference, students, faculty and staff alike have the opportunity to explore new topics and discuss new ideas. Conference participants share their work via oral presentations, traditional academic conference-style panels, poster sessions, artistic shows, creative performances, or various other methods.

Even though SSA has ended, you can still enjoy these stories about the many interesting projects and performances being presented by the students.

Norfolk Southern: Behaviors and Events Related to Fraud Risks

Q. Can you describe your project?

This project came out of “The Anatomy of Fraud” class that I took during Spring Term 2017. The overall goal of the project was to produce a memo in the style of an auditor. One of the first items that auditors look at is the qualitative factors that might lead to fraud; they assess the risks so that they may understand where misstatements are likely to occur. This project does exactly that for Norfolk Southern, a long-term rail company that I worked for during the summer of 2017.

Q. What about the topic made you explore it?

I was interested in learning more about the company that I would be working for. Additionally, I was interested in furthering my understanding of the career that I wish to pursue, as an auditor.

Q. What was the most interesting thing you have learned while working on this project?

The Code of Ethics for Norfolk Southern (NS) is rather lengthy. Coming in at 64 pages, this code provides the ethics backbone for NS. That being said, 64 pages was almost too much material. The time and energy it takes to read through the entire code was larger than what a reasonable employee would want or have time to do. A long code seems like a great idea, covering all the bases, but longer codes will not be read as intensely.

Q. What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Understanding the train industry was one of my bigger challenges. Whenever an auditor is looking at a company it is important that they understand how the corporation functions and operates. As a person who had never spent time looking at trains, taking the time to understand the varying expenses as well as taking a more in-depth look at where there sources of revenue came from created challenges.

Q. What insight – or insights – did you gain during the research period?

Anyone can commit fraud. Companies that have been around for over 100 are still at risk. The reality of the world is that pressure and motivation to commit fraud will always exist. It is society’s expectations and the innate goodwill of people that prevents the collapse of the market, and when that fails we developed a profession to catch rule breakers.

Q. What is your favorite part of creating, researching, or developing this project?

Creating the Fraud Heat Map. This three-colored square shows likelihood of fraud on the y-axis and significance of fraud on the x-axis. Creating this added a lot to the paper, giving it a greater degree of readability and bringing the entire paper together.

Q. What does SSA mean to you?

SSA is a look into what it means to be human. Science is how we have built civilization, it is what drives us forward and provides us with the necessary motivations to be more. Society is what makes civilization function, it is the law and order that keeps humanity functioning. Art is what makes civilization unique, it is the beauty and culture present in all cultures.

Q. Why is SSA – considering science, society, and arts together – important to this campus?

W&L is a campus with a plethora of interests and ideas. We have students interested in everything, and not just their major. This means that people want to share what they know and others want to learn something that they wouldn’t be able to take a class on. SSA provides W&L students with an outlet for all of the ideas bouncing around in our heads.

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