Opportunity refers to circumstances that allow fraud to occur. In the fraud triangle, it is the only component that a company exercises complete control over. Examples that provide opportunities for committing fraud include:
1. Weak internal controls
Internal controls are processes and procedures implemented to ensure the integrity of accounting and financial information. Weak internal controls such as poor separation of duties, lack of supervision, and poor documentation of processes give rise to opportunities for fraud.
2. Poor tone at the top
Tone at the top refers to upper management and the board of directors’ commitment to being ethical, showing integrity, and being honest – a poor tone at the top results in a company that is more susceptible to fraud.
3. Inadequate accounting policies
Accounting policies refer to how items on the financial statements are recorded. Poor (inadequate) accounting policies may provide an opportunity for employees to manipulate numbers.
The Fraud Triangle – Incentive
Incentive, alternatively called pressure, refers to an employee’s mindset towards committing fraud. Examples of things that provide incentives for committing fraud include:
1. Bonuses based on a financial metric
Common financial metrics used to assess the performance of an employee are revenues and net income. Bonuses that are based on a financial metric create pressure for employees to meet targets, which, in turn, may cause them to commit fraud to achieve the objective.
2. Investor and analyst expectations
The need to meet or exceed investor and analyst expectations to ensure stock prices are maintained or increased can create pressure to commit fraud.
3. Personal incentives
Personal incentives may include wanting to earn more money, the need to pay personal bills, a gambling addiction, etc.
The Fraud Triangle – Rationalization
Rationalization refers to an individual’s justification for committing fraud. Examples of common rationalizations that fraud committers use include:
1. “They treated me wrong”
An individual may be spiteful towards their manager or employer and believe that committing fraud is a way of getting payback.
2. “Upper management is doing it as well”
A poor tone at the top may cause an individual to follow in the footsteps of those higher in the corporate hierarchy.
3. “There is no other solution”
An individual may believe that they might lose everything (for example, losing a job) unless they commit fraud.