As Warren Buffet famously said, 'only when the tide goes out do you discover who has been swimming naked'. The coronavirus pandemic has offered the global economy another opportunity to prove him right. Not only are new frauds being discovered, but the growing recession will challenge the budgets of victims, regulators and criminal enforcement bodies to bring those responsible to justice and to retrieve the proceeds. Remote interpersonal dealings are increasing the distance between business counterparties in a way that the internet did, and the growth of cryptocurrency transactions continues to do.
It is not possible to predict the trajectory of these developments. While it is now a cliché to speak of the 'new normal', nobody can be actually sure what that normal will be. Some even dispute that it is useful to speak of a normal at all. Nassim Taleb has argued that the financial world is more frequently and radically affected by extreme and unpredictable occurrences (which he calls 'Sigma' or 'Black Swan' events) than we acknowledge. According to Taleb, we live in 'extremistan' and not 'mediocristan'. He has suggested that it is part of our makeup to blind ourselves to the influence of what we cannot predict.
Taleb may be right. For my part, I rather think that he is. But amid all the unpredictability, there are nevertheless some certainties. Society depends upon trust, and there will always be some people who abuse it. So some people will always commit fraud. Globalisation has ensured that major fraud will usually have an international element. Fraud lawyers will therefore have to be internationally minded.
Perhaps most of all, the growing international and technical complexity of fraud will continue to outstrip the ability of any one person to understand or remedy it. One of the heartening things about the legal profession over the past 25 years or so is the growth of an international community of lawyers specialising in fraud and asset tracing work who share knowledge and experience with each other about the events in their fields. This book continues to be a useful contribution to that community.
Robert Hunter Consultants