Kenneth Hines: special agent, educator, CEO

Crime scene barricade tape, rubber gloves and uniforms. These are often what come to mind when one hears the term “forensic” accounting.

Ken Hines, UW Bothell alumnus and executive-in-residence in the School of Business

According to University of Washington Bothell alumnus and forensic accountant, Kenneth Hines, those associations are not completely wrong.

He explained that since the job of a forensic accountant is based on examining data to determine where missing money has gone, many in the industry end up helping to solve crimes. In fact, Hines has an impressive career that features undercover operations, wiretaps and even a case that led to the arrest of a woman selling infants.

“You might not think that someone with a degree in accounting would end up with that kind of career track,” Hines said, “but many of us do.”

Unlike many forensic accountants, however, Hines has done more than solve crimes. He has also become a published writer, an executive-in-residence at UW Bothell working with students and the CEO of his own company, Integritas³.

A captivating career

Hines started his career at the Internal Revenue Service. In only his second year at the agency, he was offered a job as a special agent, a position that only 4% of employees are offered. “My job was to follow the money,” he said, “wherever it leads.”

It turned out the money could lead to some disturbing places, including a trafficking ring. That case is still ingrained in Hines’ mind even decades later. Along with federal agents in California, he aided in the arrest of a woman who ran an international baby-selling operation that arranged for pregnant women from Central Europe to enter the country illegally and sell their infants. “It was just horrific,” he said. “I can’t imagine selling a human being, let alone a helpless child.”

Despite a general lack of awareness of the role IRS agents play in arrests or crime scenes, Hines said their contributions are significant. They’re just not “Hollywood enough” to make the news. “Even though IRS agents are not commonly publicized for solving crimes, their work is often the reason criminals get caught,” he explained. “The money almost always uncovers the crime — and the criminal.”

The trafficking ring was just one of many cases that Hines helped solve while a special agent. His success led to a promotion, and he became the director of operations policy and support at the IRS-Criminal Investigation’s national headquarters.

There, he oversaw 4,000 employees worldwide and provided direction and strategic planning for the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act, legislation aimed at preventing criminals from using financial institutions to hide or launder money.

In that position, Hines created the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure program that brought in approximately 15,000 people who had not paid taxes or reported having offshore accounts. “The program provided an opportunity for individuals to pay their dues without stiff penalties,” Hines said. “Most of the people who came forward had undisclosed foreign bank accounts and assets, and the program collectively brought in billions of dollars for the government.”

From student to teacher

After 24 years in the IRS, Hines had enough stories and accomplishments to write a novel, but instead he decided to return to school. He came to UW Bothell to pursue a master’s degree in Accounting and graduated in spring 2020. “It had been a long time since I had any kind of formal education,” he said. “I wanted to freshen up my skills.”

Despite trying his best to fit in after decades outside of a classroom, Hines stood out. His career experience set him apart from his classmates and made him a unique asset to the community.

“Having Ken as part of my forensic accounting class meant students had a proven, world-class leader of one of the most important and visible governmental agencies in the U.S. to work along-side them as a fellow student,” said Dr. Rajib Doogar, associate professor in the School of Business. “I realized in our first class meeting that Ken should’ve been up at the front, and I should’ve been where he was sitting.”

As the weeks progressed, Doogar saw how Hines’ approachable, matter-of-fact personality won over his fellow students, and it quickly became apparent that Hines should serve as the course mentor and co-teacher. “By the fifth week of class, I was already inquiring about his plans to be involved with the class in the future. I asked Ken if he would step in as an executive-in-residence and lend his specialized knowledge and experience to the students,” Doogar said. “To my delight, he agreed.”

Of all the accomplishments in his varied career, this is one of the roles Hines has enjoyed most. “I love to watch students learn and help them get to that ‘aha!’ moment,” Hines said. “It’s rewarding, and I gain just as much from them as they do from me.”

Former student Rochelle McElroy said Hines’ expertise added depth to the course. “Ken could easily pull from his wealth of experience to highlight key points or demystify challenging concepts,” she said. “His real-life stories engaged and motivated me to work harder.”

From teacher to CEO

Even while mentoring other students and keeping up with his own studies, Hines founded the accounting firm Integritas³ in 2019 with longtime friends Victor Song and Kevin Hanff. The company serves clients around the world including public and private enterprises as well as government entities.

“We provide deep, subject-matter expertise to predict, detect and respond to risks and vulnerabilities caused by corruption, fraud, financial crimes and other threats,” Hines said.

His success in the company, and in his career, has led to public attention. People inside and outside of the industry are eager to learn from his expertise, and he has authored many articles on fraud prevention. His writing can be found in Young Money, The American Chiropractor, Dentistry IQ, Drug Topics and Convenience Store News. He is quoted in the book, The Wrong Stuff, by Marcus Stern, Jerry Kramer, Dean Calbreath and George E. Condon, Jr.

Despite this fame, he has not forgotten what it takes to succeed as a young professional. When he learned that UW Bothell students in Beta Alpha Psi — an international honor society for accounting and finance students — were collecting funds to purchase TI-83/84 calculators, he made a donation to ensure accountants-in-training have the tools they need.

“Just when I thought I had done it all, UW Bothell introduced me to new and exciting career opportunities I hadn’t considered before,” Hines said. “It feels good to give back. After all, I came into the University retired and left a mentor, teacher and business owner.”

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