Ellen Zimiles: 2023 Investigations & White-Collar Crime Exceptional Expert

Financier Worldwide Magazine Features FFI Leader Ellen Zimiles

By Ellen Zimiles

In recent years, companies have faced myriad challenges, with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the global economic downturn creating tough conditions for all. Such difficult times often give rise to white-collar crime, which causes further damage. Malicious actors can inflict financial and reputational harm on companies if adequate steps are not taken to protect assets.

Governments and regulatory bodies are increasing their focus on corporate misconduct. Some are set to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of financial malfeasance in 2023 and beyond. In the US, for example, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced the Biden administration’s intent to combat corporate crime. The DOJ, via two memos, has announced revisions to corporate criminal enforcement policies, which apply very nearly across the entire DOJ and include significant policy changes that favor stronger corporate enforcement. While investigating alleged fraud or corruption often takes several years, the Biden administration is poised to take a hardline stance – which may be replicated in other jurisdictions around the world.


Financier Worldwide turns to leading investigations and white-collar crime experts to share their story. Ellen Zimiles, Financial Crime, Fraud and Investigative Services leader at Guidehouse shares her insights in this Q&A with the magazine.


Could you provide an insight into how you approach your work? What drives and motivates you?

I try to understand the problem, without any preconceived notions, through active listening – asking probing questions to fill gaps and hone in on potential issues. This enables me to partner with clients to build customized solutions that can address both short- and long-term challenges. Most importantly, I help the client think differently to solve problems holistically, and this leads to deeper relationships and lifetime clients. Lastly, it is not just about solving a client’s root issue – education and knowledge transfer are also key to empowering clients. Helping my clients overcome their biggest challenges and capitalize on their biggest opportunities is a truly satisfying part of my work.

In what ways do you endeavor to support the career development of your colleagues rising through the ranks?

Developing people is the most rewarding part of my job. In working side-by-side and providing critical feedback and valuable input, I help them build and grow their professional toolkit. I am passionate about my people taking bolder professional chances and understanding how their experience can be applied to new and unfamiliar opportunities. A recent example was conducting a monitorship for a manufacturing company. While my colleague had little specific experience with manufacturers, she had superior knowledge of creating compliance programs. By helping her connect those dots, we developed a successful program that met the client’s needs. At this point in my career, seeing my staff enjoying the accolades of success far outweighs any personal gains.


Reflecting on your area of expertise, how do you see this sphere of the market shaping up over the coming months? Are any exciting trends or developments on the horizon?

Financial crime, fraud and misconduct happen everywhere and tend to reveal themselves in a weakened economy. The need to quickly disburse funds during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has given rise to a new crop of fraudsters and fraud schemes. We have also seen an uptick in illicit activity with the surge of remote work. Frankly, it is easier to get away with something when nobody is physically sitting next to you. Companies, regardless of industry, need to be mindful of unintentional increases or decreases in the business – unexpected increases are often an indicator of fraudulent activity. I believe machine learning will continue to evolve, enabling compliance teams to focus on true organizational threats and higher-level activities. Our new financial crime, fraud and investigative services practice will address the financial crime, fraud and misconduct issues that can occur in any industry.


Reprinted with permission from Financier Worldwide Magazine. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. For a copy of full article, please visit the Financier Worldwide link.

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