Alexandre De Genaro, CFE, realized he was on the right path when he garnered his first confession during a fraud investigation. After spending time in information security and loss prevention, De Genaro is now the Head of Business Security, Latin America for General Mills.
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
I was supporting the global investigation team in a local incident, and I got my first confession. It was a case involving a senior logistics manager with more than 15 years at the company. He borrowed a large amount from one of the carrier’s providers but was unable to pay and eventually reported. With the necessary elements, we obtained his confession, but that was very striking for me. I had not yet come across a case of conflict of interest at this level, especially in the private sector where there was not much publicity in the media. That’s when I started to research and understand the potential for losses and the pain caused to businesses, which, without proper attention, could be severely compromised.
How did you get to your current role?
I am a lawyer, and I started working with information security for a telecommunications company, dealing with breach of confidentiality, telephone interception, and helping law enforcement in investigations of greater offensive potential. After a few years at the head of this department, I received an offer to be the loss prevention manager of an electronic equipment assembly company. I learned that a strong reactive program (research) is an essential part of prevention—after all, even if the deviation is not initially identified, when the corrective action is effective, it ends up generating a preventive culture.
This concept made me give the necessary emphasis to the subject and seek training and improvement in this sector.
What are challenges you face in your role?
In addition to the most common ones, such as lack of structure and organizational culture, I can say that certain investigations reach hierarchical levels that become an enormous political challenge. Aligning expectations within the business itself is also a challenge. The sense of necessity and the way to investigate, but mainly the weight that a fraudulent action has, varies greatly from country to country, from culture to culture, and even from team to team. What is normal practice for the sales team may be unacceptable for the finance team, for example. This creates a challenge, not just for the company, but also an internal challenge for each decision maker.
In my particular case, leading the investigation, I seek clarification of the facts in an impartial way so that the business can make the best decision, but this exemption needs to be set aside when I act as member of the company’s compliance committee.
What is an important lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Be very careful where you step. It may feel firm—it may even be firm—but it’s best to touch your toes before jumping into unfamiliar terrain. The evidence can lead you to logical conclusions, but, in general, there are gaps that, if we are not attentive, can be filled improperly. It is important to be very clear about the division between facts and presumption so that we do not create lines of reasoning based on false premises.
I also learned the value of having a program with training, periodic reports to senior management, review of the company’s code of conduct, business involvement in the most conflicting issues, and the importance of the collegiate decision and the Ethics and Compliance Committee, especially with the diversity across sectors.
Finally, I learned that patience and respect for the organization’s rhythm are fundamental to the application of a solid and effective program. Trust and culture change are obtained with a lot of resilience, impartiality and transparency, but it is also necessary to understand that this takes time to achieve.
What is important to you about being a CFE?
Being a CFE brought me the necessary rationale to authenticate methods, tactics and techniques that I learned and improved along this path. However, I need to highlight the importance of the strategic planning vision for the Fraud, Investigations and Compliance Program that certification makes you understand, plan and apply.
SOURCE: ACFE Insights – A Publication of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners