Mr. Goldmann

Security & Safety

How to Prevent Hotel & Restaurant Kickback Schemes

By Peter Goldmann, President, FraudAware Hospitality

Kickbacks in Perspective

Collusion between employees and outsiders accounts for a growing proportion of corporate frauds.

According to a recent survey by the Big Four accounting firm, KPMG, nearly one-half of companies reported that collusion between employees and third parties had contributed to a fraud in their company.

Topping the list of collusive schemes reported were kickbacks that involved assisting a third party with winning business, increasing business, or with stealing proprietary information from the company.

The Many Faces of Kickback Schemes

{HBR_300x250.media}

Kickback schemes can be an investigator's nightmare. Often, evidence is hard to find and witnesses are even harder to turn. But with the right combination of investigative resources, virtually any kickback perpetrator can be caught, prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Kickbacks in hotels and restaurants can take many forms, but regardless of their unique and often ingenious qualities, nearly all kickback crimes boil down to improper payments being made to a company employee by an outside vendor.

Typical: Payments are made in the form of cash or complimentary goods or services, in exchange for steering business toward the vendor.

Examples of how hotel or restaurant kickback schemes occur:

Red Flags to Watch For

Common signs of possible kickback schemes...

"Phantom" vendors. If an employee is conspiring with an outside vendor to funnel kickback money to a phony vendor, you can usually spot this scheme by finding out if the suspect vendor...

Patterns of unusual or suspicious accounts payable activity. Examples:

Investigating a Kickback Case

To successfully investigate suspicions about an ongoing kickback scheme start with the following steps-possibly with the assistance of an outside investigative firm...

According to Jeffrey M. Klink, president of Klink & Co., Inc., an international risk consulting firm based in New York, it is far too easy for a crooked insider who is running a kickback operation to fabricate, alter, and make changes to inventory records... sales data... commission payment records, etc. Start by finding out...

To do this, your company should secure the legal right to examine records of a vendor to determine if a fraud or a violation of company policy has occurred through a "right-to-audit agreement" or "right-to-audit clause" in the contract. The agreement can be printed on the back of a purchase order or other procurement form. The wording doesn't have to be overly complex. According to Greene, you can keep it simple with language such as:

"Seller shall establish a reasonable accounting system, which enables ready identification of seller's cost of goods and use of funds. Buyer may audit seller's records anytime before three years after final payment to verify buyer's payment obligation and use of buyer's funds. This right to audit shall include subcontractors in which goods or services are subcontracted by seller. Seller shall insure buyer has these rights with subcontractor(s)."

Even if you don't have a right-to-audit provision with a vendor and you suspect kickback activity, you can still request that the vendor submit to an audit by your own financial people. Says Greene, if they have nothing to hide, there should be no problem getting in to review the vendor's books. However, hesitation is a clear red flag that something illegal could be going on.

Fortunately, there are auditing techniques and database analysis technologies that can help in screening for signs of possible kickback activity. Forensic accountants can deploy special software that pinpoints unusual payment patterns like the ones listed above, and many others.

The All-Important Interview

Though modern forensic technology has given new investigative power to fraud investigators, catching internal kickback perpetrators still requires a substantial amount of "hands-on" human interaction. Interviewing strategies for uncovering the facts about a possible kickback operation...

But be prepared: Key witnesses are often reluctant to cooperate unless they feel confident that the investigation will ultimately be successful. No one wants to cooperate in a fraud investigation if at the end of the day all that happened was that the witness was "left hung out to dry."

The solution is to identify the best interviewees by reviewing appropriate documentation, including organizational charts and lists of vendors who might be involved. From those reviews, determine which witnesses will likely possess the most information.

Next, get a commitment from top management, that the company is serious about the investigation. If possible, get a mandate from the Board of the company. Get a commitment from the company that it expects full cooperation from anyone with knowledge about the suspected activity. But-be sure to emphasize that any information provided during an interview will remain strictly confidential.

Identify Your Internal Suspects

Based on the input gathered from your thorough witness interviews and from earlier data analysis, conduct background checks on key employees who have been identified as potentially guilty of kickback activity. Look for.

With this final step, you should have collected sufficient evidence to finger your suspect(s) and to confront them about the kickback scheme.

The bottom line: Effective hotel and restaurant kickback investigations require a special blend of technology-based forensic sleuthing...a degree of "gut instinct" on the part of a skilled investigator...and exemplary interviewing and audit skills.

Peter Goldmann is the Developer of FraudAware/Hospitality, the first on-line fraud awareness training course for hospitality managers, supervisors and line employees. He is is the publisher of the monthly newsletters, White-Collar Crime Fighter and Cyber-Crime Fighter. His company, White-Collar Crime 101 LLC also is the developer of FraudAware/Hospitality, a customizable Web-based fraud awareness training course for managers, supervisors and line employees. He is a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and The International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators. Mr. Goldmann can be contacted at 203-431-7657 or pgoldmann@wccfighter.com Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:

SEPTEMBER: Hotel Group Meetings for 2015

 Elaine  Macy

The economic downturn of 2009 caused dramatic changes in the hotel group sales market, primarily in the automotive, financial services, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries. The number of incentive trips and meetings were drastically reduced and even cancelled across all industries. Five years later, meeting planners are faced with a new wave of opportunities and challenges and now have to re-think and understand how the “groups game” has changed. Here is a brief overview of best practices for how meeting planners can maximize their success in today’s competitive landscape. READ MORE

Jesse  Suglia

Closing the Deal with Tough Customers in a Competitive Environment: Closing the deal with a tough customer in a competitive group hotel environment can be challenging – but it doesn’t always have to come down to price. Even when the client has a handful of hotels from which to choose, these strategies will help your hotel sales team weave together a customized plan of attack that hits client hot buttons, maximizes relationships and showcases standout site benefits that can make the sale…while steering the conversation from price to value. READ MORE

Michael C.   Sturman, Ph.D.

The reasons that people attend tradeshows depend on whether they are exhibitors or attendees, although the purposes cited by the two groups intersect, according to a study of 2,257 tradeshow participants. Exhibitors are strongly focused on developing sales leads and demonstrating products, while attendees are chiefly concerned with educational opportunities. Tradeshows are increasingly using technology solutions to support those goals, including matchmaking and scheduling software, as well as on-site wi-fi, mobile apps, and internet cafés. Also important to participants’ satisfaction with a tradeshow are sustainability programs, notably recycling and a reduction of paper collateral. READ MORE

Michael  Kofsky

Hotels are critically dependent on revenue from events such as conventions, trade shows, and exhibitions. The more successfully and efficiently hotels can execute meetings and events, the more they can garner both return and referral business, a very essential way to increase room revenue and profitability. However, for any executive or business meeting planner, when deciding where to host an important event or other large gathering, there is a lot at stake. The decision to choose the correct venue is one that can be incredibly time consuming and potentially determine the turnout and overall success of the gathering. While the destination is always an important factor, site size, flexibility of layout, comfort of chairs, audiovisual (AV) capabilities, Wi-Fi access and strength, lighting, and even power outlet accessibility are also critical factors to consider when determining an event space. A hotel can accomplish more effective events by creating modern, sleek, but still warm and welcoming event spaces that meet these needs yet are also comfortable and convenient, and leave hosts and the guests with outstanding experiences for the most efficient group event. READ MORE

Coming Up In The October Online Hotel Business Review


{300x250.media}
Feature Focus
New Developments and Best Practices on Maximizing Revenue Management
Revenue Management is the application of precision analytics that predict consumer behavior and optimize product availability and price to maximize revenue growth. The primary aim of Hotel Revenue Management is selling the right room to the right customer at the right time for the right price. The essence of this application is in understanding customers' perception of product value and accurately aligning product prices, placement and availability with each customer segment. In the hotel industry, implementing an effective revenue management strategy is a vital component of its operations. In fact, in a recent survey of nearly 500 revenue management professionals in the hotel industry, they predicted that revenue management strategies will become even more targeted and will be supported by increasingly sophisticated technology, as they are applied to other areas within a hotel. In particular, revenue management techniques are likely to be integrated into other hotel income streams, including spas, restaurants, conference/groups and golf courses. As a consequence, the revenue management function will become more crucial to hotel operations, and will likely become a separate department that is under the general manager’s supervision. The October issue of the Hotel Business Review will address these significant developments and document how some leading hotels are executing their revenue management strategies.