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Adventures of a CPA: David Orenstein tackles the puzzle of forensic accounting

An early career CPA shares how his penchant for problem-solving led him down an unexpected path.

David Orenstein never planned on becoming a forensic accountant. In fact, when he started at UCLA as a business economics major, he couldn't have predicted that his introduction to accounting classes would set him on a path to investigate some of finance's most fascinating mysteries. But thanks to his natural curiosity and knack for problem-solving, he found his calling — at least for now.

From UCLA to detective

David Orenstein

As an undergraduate, David's future was wide open, but the draw of his accounting courses kept him returning for more. The concepts came together like pieces of a puzzle, which sparked his interest in researching the CPA career path. "The more I learned, the more I realized accounting's immense potential and the doors it could open," David said.

Through UCLA’s campus recruiting program, David secured a tax internship with Baker Tilly and spent the summer between his junior and senior years working in our San Diego office. While he loved the people and culture, he felt the predictability of tax-related responsibilities didn’t satisfy his desire to tackle a diverse range of challenges. He wanted to do more open-ended problem-solving, and in speaking with his recruiter, he learned about opportunities with Baker Tilly's Forensic, Litigation and Valuation Services (FLVS) team.

"I was intrigued by the idea of applying my accounting skills to complex and challenging cases like fraud investigations, so when I received a full-time offer for the practice, I accepted,” he said.

Uncovering accounting mysteries

In his role as a Baker Tilly FLVS consultant, David analyzes data, tracks trends and unravels financial puzzles for our clients. He acts as a detective, scrutinizing documents to uncover the truth before presenting conclusions to his colleagues and at client meetings. One of his most memorable experiences involved unraveling 20 years of financial records to expose fund misuse by a shareholder.

“I spent six weeks poring over documents and updating my partners and the attorneys regularly. Though stressful, cracking the case and presenting my findings at the climactic three-hour meeting was immensely rewarding,” David said.

Advice for aspiring CPAs

David originally pursued his CPA to open doors. "The more I explored different paths, the more possibilities emerged," he explained.

Though David remains open-minded about where his career journey will ultimately lead, he feels the analytical skills he's honing as a CPA will serve him well wherever he lands. Rather than plotting each step, David is embracing the twists and turns of his professional journey, trusting that his strong foundation will enable him to thrive in a range of settings.