Outgoing 2018–2019 Chairman of The IIA's Global Board Naohiro Mouri officially welcomed attendees from more than 100 countries as he opened the 2019 International Conference in Anaheim, Calif., today. Recapping his chairman's theme, "Emphasize the Basics — Elevate the Standards," Mouri encouraged those in the room to celebrate the work of the global organization, network with each other, and hear each other's stories as they all strive to elevate the profession.
Just after Mouri's opening remarks, the Internal Audit Foundation's (IAF's) 2019 Esther R. Sawyer Research Award was presented to undergraduate student Jiamei Elizabeth Feng of Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., by Brian Christensen, executive vice president, Global Internal Audit, Protiviti, and 2018–2019 president of the IAF. Feng's paper, "Internal Auditing's Identity Issue: Management-orientated or Accounting Related," explores how the internal audit function can be "a channel that management can rely upon for assurance and consulting services.
During today's first general session, A Violation of Trust: How Bernie Madoff Changed a Nation, IIA President and CEO Richard Chambers sat down with Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss to explore insights gained from playing Madoff in the ABC miniseries of the same name. Madoff is currently serving a 150-year sentence for the largest investment fraud in U.S. history.
Like Madoff, Dreyfuss was raised in Queens, N.Y. "I understood not just Bernie Madoff. I understood all of the men who came back from World War II and were intent on succeeding at business," Dreyfuss says. "They were all passionately in love with the opportunity offered by the United States. No one grows up saying they're going to become a master criminal. Madoff committed to crossing the line into criminal behavior. He did it for the most base of reasons."
But the most important question to ask, Dreyfuss says, is what allowed Madoff to commit his crime. "What was the world like that allowed him to do it?" he asked. "Lots of people knew he was a crook and none of them spoke up. There was just one investigator or auditor who pursed him like death: Harry Markopolos."
According to Dreyfuss, it wasn't about how talented Madoff was, it was about how blind and filled with denial everyone else was. In one scene in the miniseries, Madoff handed investigators information that would have brought his Ponzi scheme to a screeching halt, but they never followed up on it. They trusted him because he was Bernie Madoff, former chair of the Nasdaq.
Dreyfuss encouraged internal auditors to show courage in their work. "You are the front-line soldiers on a world that has descended in the last 50 years into such decay and such a loss of ethics that there's no one to trust," he says. "You are the last line of defense against the greedy and the cruel."