Denise Stubbs, CPA



Manager–Litigation Support,
Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra LLP,
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

As a forensic accountant, I feel like a modern-day Nancy Drew. I am an accountant, investigator and therapist, all wrapped up into one. In the family law division of litigation support, our main focus is to help clients through the divorce process by analyzing documents and financial transactions. Day to day, however, my No. 1 priority is training and staff development. Luckily, I can relate to both sides of the situation. I am able to emulate the partners, while at the same time, I still remember what it was like to be a fresh hire.

Outside the office, I am a race car driver. I started participating in autocross events, which are basically obstacle courses for cars, with my fiance, Chris, in 2002. We won several class titles and awards, then got involved in Drivers Ed events—essentially race driver training—held at area tracks. They’re designed to be safe environments where beginners can actually get on the track and learn essential racing and safety skills. I worked my way through the classes and quickly reached the solo level.

After graduating from Drivers Ed, I became an instructor. Training drivers is a lot like training my accounting staff; it’s very hands-on. When I’m on the track, I’m in the passenger seat next to a rookie driver. In my office, I’ll have a new team member set up a laptop next to mine, and we’ll go through an investigation side by side. My approach to instruction is highly customized and tailored for whomever I’m training—both on the racetrack and at Morrison, Brown, Argiz & Farra.

I moved up to sports car racing in 2004. I attended a two-day racing school to obtain the required credentials, and now my fiance and I race two Porsche 944s. My first win was at the Sebring International Raceway in September 2005, and it happened to be the only race my grandmother saw me drive in. In December 2006, I attended the Lyn St. James Driver Development Program in Phoenix, which is designed specifically for female drivers. My most recent race was the Tropical 12 Hours of Homestead, a 12-hour endurance race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. My team used the race as a fundraiser for Susan G. Komen for the Cure and covered our car in pink ribbons; we raised thousands of dollars for breast cancer research.

In my first year of public accounting, I met my mentor and boss, Tami Clemenza-Wilson, CPA. I chose the firm for its crosstraining program, which allowed me to work in the audit and tax departments before I had to make the big decision as to what practice area to specialize in. One day during the program, I walked down what I called “Director’s Row,” which was the hallway where the firm’s partners and directors had their offices, looking for something to work on. I stumbled into her office and into forensic accounting—I’ve been hooked ever since!

My job really is more analytical thinking and problem-solving than hardcore number-crunching. Before I started college, I had no clue what accountants really did. After I started working, I volunteered with the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants (FICPA) to be a high school coordinator in a program that assigns one CPA to each high school in the state. I brought my students to the firm’s office for a job shadowing day. It was exciting for them to see the investigations and the personal side of accounting.

My first term on the FICPA Board of Governors began in July. After serving the maximum allowed five years on the Young CPAs committee, I’m looking forward to the new opportunities the position will present, especially as one of the youngest members on the board. I feel by giving back to the profession, especially through my involvement with the FICPA and as a Young CPA, I’ve gotten more back in return.

I’m disciplined with the way I spend my time. There are only 24 hours in a day, so my strategy is to compartmentalize—work is for work, vacations are not. My grandfather told me to find something I love to do, and then I’d be happy. Getting paid would be just another benefit. Luckily, I’ve done just that. 


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