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Forensic Accountant John A. Damico ’67
Jack Damico joined the New York-based accounting firm Johnson Atwater as its first-ever intern while a freshman at Boston College, and testified in his first case during his junior year of college. Set in a Canadian court where the judges wore robes and wigs, the case centered on an explosion in a paper mill and the amount of damages his firm’s client, an insurer, would cover. “I was scared to death,” he says.
Damico returned to Atwater after graduation and, at the age of 26, opened its Atlanta office. In 1979, he and his current partners bought out the firm, and today he is managing partner of Matson, Driscoll, & Damico, overseeing 29 offices on three continents. Damico describes forensic accounting as financial detective work, often involving disputed insurance claims—just how much did a hurricane, say, hurt a company in terms of profits, inventory, property, and intangibles such as market share and reputation? He has testified in such high-profile cases as the Three Mile Island nuclear accident (1979), the MGM Grand fire (1980), Food Lion v. ABC/Prime Time Live (taking the stand right before Diane Sawyer, in 1997), and more recently, as an expert witness on claims arising from the World Trade Center attacks.
Damico’s firm also specializes in fraud examination, a field that has seen explosive growth since the Enron Corporation’s unraveling in 2001 and enactment of the Sarbanes-Oxley bill in 2002, which requires companies to obtain outside audits of not only financial records but also financial procedures. In a corporate feud, Damico says, “We could be hired by either the company or the stockholders to find out who’s doing what, why they’re doing it, and what they’re trying to cover up.”
A recent case concerned a New York warehouse fire and a $100 million insurance claim; it seemed routine until Damico’s examiners discovered invoices that looked to be fabricated, customers that didn’t seem to exist, and ultimately two sets of accounting books. Damico also worked with Scotland Yard on a case in which jars of baby food had been poisoned. Authorities caught the perpetrator, but not before he cost the British maker millions in product and bad PR—damages Damico helped to determine.
“You can tell from my smile I enjoy this stuff,” Damico says. “It makes for good cocktail conversation.”
Paige Parvin is a writer based in Atlanta