Handling Bankruptcies, Frauds and Other Forensics Matters
|Maria Yip, Carlos Canasi, Kerry-Ann Rin and Hal Levenberg|
Maria M. Yip likes to walk 10,000 steps in a day. While she doesn’t always achieve that objective, she is always ready to “go the extra mile” for her clients, who include attorneys, receivers, trustees and governmental agencies. As founder and managing partner of Yip Associates, she leads a growing team of dedicated forensic accounting professionals.
“Forensics analysts need to pay close attention to details,” says Yip, who is a Florida certified public accountant (CPA), certified fraud examiner (CFE), certified insolvency and restructuring advisor (CIRA) and is certified in financial forensics (CFF). “In doing our work, we look at thousands of data points from business and bank records. Our role is often to determine what happened with the money or the business, and who was involved, in order to help the attorney be an effective advocate for the client.”
Since founding Yip Associates in 2008 as a sole practitioner, Yip has grown her firm to 19 professionals with offices in Boca Raton and New York, as well as its headquarters in Miami. Fluent in Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), the firm’s team provides consulting and expert witness services to attorneys and governmental entities in the United States and abroad.
Yip also serves in fiduciary roles. She is a member of the Panel of U.S. Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustees in the Southern District of Florida, and also serves as Chapter 11 trustee, liquidating trustee, receiver, and assignee.
“I really enjoy receivership and trustee cases because every one is different, and there are always lots of moving parts,” she says. “As a fiduciary, you want to have great legal and financial advisors on your team, but ultimately you are the one making the decision.”
An Interest in Law and Accounting
Born in Madrid, Yip grew up in Boston and Chicago, before moving to Miami in 1980. Her Cuban-born parents, as well as most of her relatives, reside in Miami. After high school, Yip enrolled at the University of Miami on a scholarship before transferring to Florida International University.
“I was initially interested in the law as a career, but I was anxious to get into the working world and an accounting degree would open those doors,” she says. While attending FIU in the evening, Yip began working for a small Miami law firm that handled personal injury cases. “I began at the law firm as a runner, taking documents to the courthouse and handling administrative work for the firm. Eventually, I became the office manager, handling billing and bookkeeping. This experience gave me an opportunity to see litigators in action and served as great training for the work I would ultimately do and the business that I founded years later,” she says.
After earning her accounting degree, Yip went to work for Price Waterhouse’s audit department and later joined the firm’s dispute analysis and corporate restructuring department. She left Price Waterhouse to work at Arthur Andersen and many years later joined Grant Thornton to lead its Florida forensic accounting practice.
In 2006, Yip joined Daylight Forensics to open its Miami office. “By this point, I had gained a better understanding of the South Florida forensic accounting marketplace,” Yip says. “I believed that the bulk of the local forensics work was going to the local firms, so in the fall of 2008 I decided to open my own firm. I have not regretted the decision for a day.”
Growing Her Firm
In the past seven years, Yip has taken a methodical approach to building her firm. “We have focused on doing quality work and being responsive to our clients in the South Florida legal community and nationally,” she says. “As a woman-owned and minority certified business, we are pursuing opportunities to collaborate on large-scale federal, state and local government projects in Florida and New York.”
After launching Yip Associates in Coral Gables, Yip moved her firm to downtown Miami in 2013. The Miami team includes directors Thomas de Araujo, CFE and Kerry-Ann Rin, CPA, both specializing in forensic accounting, bankruptcy litigation and reporting.
Last year, Yip opened an office in Boca Raton, led by partners Hylton Wynick and Marcie Bour. Wynick is a Certified Insolvency Restructuring Advisor and Certified Forensic Accountant, specializing in bankruptcy litigation and tax consulting. Bour is a Certified Public Accountant with 30 years of experience as an expert witness in forensic accounting and valuation matters. “We recognize how important it is to our people that they have flexibility with their schedules and working from home. Today’s technology permits us to have that kind of flexibility. Our clients expect our firm to be responsive and we deliver. For this very reason, we need to respect and provide flexibility to our people,” says Yip.
Yip Associates actively recruits from several Florida universities but is very selective. “We test candidates on their attention to detail when they arrive for their interview,” she says.
Yip adds that excellent communication skills are critical for forensic accountants. “As a forensic accountant our role is to analyze volumes of information and to convey the results of what we found in a way that is understandable,” she says. “We analyze the data, distill the relevant information, paint the picture of what happened by putting the pieces of the puzzle together, and then explain it in a way that will be helpful to the judge or jury in making the ultimate decision.”
Digging Into the Cases
Whether serving as a fiduciary or tracking the flow of funds in a fraud case, Yip enjoys being an investigator in both the real and digital worlds. “I’ve seen things posted on social media sites that have answered questions in some of our cases,” she says.
For example, Yip says that in a receivership case a party had been ordered to turn over his vehicle. “ He failed to do so and said he took the car to the dealership and said no funds had been provided to him. Suspecting that he had taken the money from the trade-in to buy another car, we checked postings on social media and learned that he had given his girlfriend a car on the same day as the trade-in. I brought this to the judge’s attention and she ordered him to immediately turn over the funds used to buy his girlfriend’s car. ”
Reflecting on her career, Yip says she’s found the ideal role, managing a forensics firm that draws on her passion for accounting, law and business. She says, “I love the work that I have been doing for the past 22 years, but I am more excited than ever about the future of our firm.”