Fraud Buster Funds New Schilit Scholars Program
Companies guilty of accounting trickery don’t want Howard Schilit, MBA ’76, PhD ’81, anywhere near their books. The CEO of Schilit Forensics and co-author of “Financial Shenanigans” has a remarkable track record of cutting through corporate spin and telling investors what they really need to know before it’s too late.
Now the Smith alumnus is passing on his techniques to undergraduates at the school through the Schilit Scholars in Accounting program.
“What I’m trying to do is something fairly revolutionary,” Schilit says. “I want the accounting curriculum to add the skillset that is necessary to really understand the story the company is telling. There are a lot of accounting tricks that are in compliance with the rules, but nevertheless present a misleading picture.”
Schilit Scholars will have that skillset. Two senior accounting majors will be chosen as Schilit Scholars through a competitive application process. Each will receive a $5,000 academic award and participate in a one-credit independent learning course that includes hands-on learning with Schilit and his company.
A capstone project will help students turn the skills they learn during the course into a meaningful differentiator to take into the work force.
Schilit believes the program will do more than give students new skills — it will help open doors. “Experience with these analytical techniques and ways of thinking will open interesting job opportunities for students, like investment analysts on Wall Street,” Schilit says.
The skills have served Schilit well during his own career. While still a professor at American University, he founded a private company, the Center for Financial Research and Analysis (CFRA), through which he advised more than 500 investment firms.
Schilit sold that company in 2003 to a private equity firm and in 2011 started Schilit Forensics, a consulting company that solves specific problems for institutional investors, private equity firms and public companies.
Most forensic accountants are called in after fraud has been revealed. But Schilit is able to spot the subtle signs that a company is playing with accounting rules before its investors can be harmed.
“Traditional accounting courses don’t teach this type of analysis,” Schilit says. “But this is what investors need.”
Bucking a national trend, with many business schools downsizing their PhD offerings, Smith is working to provide one of the premier doctoral programs in the United States. Howard Schilit, PhD ’81, and Patrick Maggitti, PhD ’06, show the impact that Smith PhD graduates can have. To learn more, visit rhsmith.umd.edu/programs/phd-program.