One clear lesson learned from the Paradise Lost case is the importance of extensive and clear documentation in preventing and/or punishing instances of fraud. For example, one of the strongest and potentially successful elements of Bob’s defence strategy was to capitalize on the irregularities in documentary evidence that resulted from the devastation of Hurricane Ivan; although this strategy would eventually prove unsuccessful, it is possible that it might have succeeded if less additional incriminating evidence had been available. At the same time, it was the sheer weight of documentary evidence that the fraud investigator and later the prosecutor was able to collect and present that eventually allowed a clear case to be built against Bob: documentary evidence was what enabled Bob’s attempts at obfuscation and misdirection to be unravelled and seen for what they were. It is clear, therefore, that a documentary system is essential in acting as a deterrent to instances of fraud: if individuals are made aware that evidence exists against their actions, they are less likely to think that attempts at fraud will be successful.
A second key lesson learned from the Paradise Lost case is the need for enforcement to support legislation. It is eminently clear that a key motivation in Bob’s behaviour was the firm belief, based on his four-year success in avoiding penalties, that the Pensions Office was powerless to force him to comply with its mandatory programs. The result of the four-year delay in legislative action was that Bob’s transgressions were able to escalate to extreme proportions, covering two companies and over 100 separate instances of fraud. It is clear that earlier action taken on the part of the Pensions Office, resulting in penalties and consequences for Bob, might have dissuaded him from further non-compliance and limited his fraudulent behaviour towards his employees.
With these key lessons in mind, my first recommendation to prevent future occurrences of fraud would be the implementation of a system by which earlier enforcement measures could be taken against potential fraudsters. By catching and punishing instances of non-compliance at an early stage, it is likely that fraud on the extensive level of that committed by Bob Walker might be avoided. Such enforcement measures might include the imposition of fines, legal action or imprisonment, or even confiscation of property to cover missed payments. Although smaller in scale than the punishments Bob Walker would eventually face, these consequences encountered early on might have prevented and discouraged further fraud.
In order to support such a system, my second recommendation would be to hire more experts in the fields of fraud detection, investigation, and prosecution. It is clear from the Paradise Lost case that the guidance of a Fraud expert was needed to bring Bob Walker to justice; having such experts in place before fraud occurs is likely to act as a direct deterrent as well as ensuring effective systems and policies are developed to help prevent fraud. Fraud prevention and prosecution experts should therefore be visibly present and active within the Pensions Office.
My final recommendation would also serve to support the development of an enforcement system: I would recommend that visible detection and punishment methods be put in place. In other words, the presence of experts as above and the active nature of penalties as described above should be made clear to all employers and employees. By actively displaying and advertising detection and punishment methods, the possibility of employers being under the impression that they can get away with fraud is reduced. Such visibility would also serve to make employees more aware of their rights, helping to support the collection of documentary evidence where needed. Taken together, these recommendations would serve to not only punish instances of fraud, but hopefully deter fraudsters in the first place.