Quashing Bias in Internal Investigations

Quashing Bias in Internal Investigations

Quashing Bias in Internal Investigations

With the current outbreak of COVID-19 keeping many employees at home, corporations in the midst of internal overhaul are feeling the drag. Investigations that could improve a corporation from within could be on hold, or being conducted by an internal investigator to mitigate the complications of the stay-at-home order. An internal investigation can often be the sharpest of double-edged swords in the business world. From employee theft to executive misconduct, internal investigations can often be the most attractive option for management and C-level executives. Internal investigations provide the investigating company with enough control over the situations to make crucial in-house decisions, overhaul faulty processes, and improve the quality of life of their organization, all while flying under the radar of public scrutiny. However, the obvious inherent issue with an internal investigation is an implicit level of bias that can have devastating consequences.

The idea of implicit bias within a corporation is usually brought up with regards to their diversity and how the lack of it creates blind spots within leadership. However, implicit bias can be the poison that rots an investigation from the inside out. There are innumerable factors that can influence a person’s inherent bias, like interactions with others, personal experiences, or exposure to external stimuli that can change a person’s beliefs. These factors are exacerbated when the investigator in question is part of the corporation or organization being investigation.

When an investigation is handled internally, leadership can obviously trust the investigator to conduct their fact-finding missions swiftly and discreetly with the best interests of the company in mind, but this comes at a cost, and that cost is internal bias.Internal investigators already have the bias of experience and personal belief as human beings. On top of that, you can add the inherent bias of being a part of the organization they are investigating. Internal investigations can have a myriad of consequences, the most extreme of which would be the dissolution of the corporation. That factor alone—the preservation of one’s job—is one of the strongest motivations for skewing results of an internal investigation in the corporation’s favor. When the investigator has a direct or indirect stake in the preservation of the corporation, the investigation can never be objective—leads will go unpursued, testimony uncorroborated, and important facts might be excluded from the findings of the investigation. This level of bias is something that many companies simply cannot afford.

Appointing an internal investigator to handle pervasive issues may sound like good money sense that also provides a layer of protection for the corporation, but the consequential costs of such an investigation can be astronomical. Internal bias can set an investigation back for weeks, leading to more lost productivity and profits. First and foremost, a faulty internal investigation can have litigious consequences that leadership might not foresee. For example, an internal investigation that results in the termination of an employee can result in a wrongful termination lawsuit on behalf of the former employee. If the investigation is subsequently found to be biased, the court could award the former employee with damages as part of a settlement, which can have devastating financial repercussions for the corporation or organization.

One of the worst parts of internal investigations is that the repercussions can end in the investigation being a huge waste of time and money for a corporation—like in the wrongful termination suit against IBM in 2013. An internal investigation into the employee’s misconduct resulted in that employee being terminated, and when the suit was brought to court, IBM wanted to show the court that they had conducted a fair investigation. The findings of IBM’s internal investigation were precluded from trial because it was determined by the court that the investigation was in fact biased. The court found that the internal investigator did not interview witnesses who might have supported the employee’s version of events. This resulted in countless of useless hours processed through payroll, not to mention the waste of resources and loss of productivity that consequently occurred. This is why if your corporation is considering conducting an internal investigation, it is a solid investment to hire an independent investigator before initiating an investigation.

Hiring a private investigator may seem like an unconventional way to approach an internal investigation. After all, how are you supposed to willingly invite an investigator who is a stranger to your organization and trust them to give you the best recommendations to improve it from within? Regardless of which private or independent investigator you hire, there is always one thing your money guarantees, and that’s objectivity. Unlike the aforementioned IBM case in which the internal investigation was precluded from trial due to bias, independent investigators are exactly that—independent, and their objectivity comes with a much higher threshold of bias and scrutiny. This means money spent on an investigation now won’t be for nothing when consequential litigation comes up on the docket.

Because private investigators are independent from the organization, their findings and testimony come with a higher degree of integrity. Private investigators have no direct or indirect stake in the outcome of an independent investigation, so their factual findings are not clouded by office politics or industry bias. They only have their verified resources and a toolbox of experience that allows them to gather evidence and follow leads internal investigators might not have considered or ignored. Internal bias can derail an investigation from the beginning, and it’s important to have an independent set of eyes in order to prevent lost productivity and manhours.

Furthermore, having an independent investigator like one of the quality private investigators with Lauth Investigations International, you know that you can trust the results of any investigation are free of internal bias. It is the source of intelligence that has the power to improve any corporation or organization from within—resolving pervasive issues within the workplace that contribute to drop in employee morale & engagement, productivity, and profits. Call Lauth Investigations International today to get a free consultation on our corporate culture audit and corporate intelligence services.

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Internal Investigations During Coronavirus

Internal Investigations During Coronavirus

Corporate Investigations Move to Telecommunications During COVID-19 Outbreak

COVID-19, or “the corona virus” has already had an unprecedented effect on the world’s economy in the 21st century. Millions across the globe are currently practicing self-quarantine or “social-distancing”, while many workplaces are shutting down in order to prevent the spread of the virus. While many struggle during this time of social isolation, internal investigations in corporations and organizations are experiencing major disruption as well. Corporate investigators can continue to expect unique challenges with internal investigations, and will have to rely on telecommunications in order to continue their due-diligence.

Any seasoned investigator will tell you that one of the greatest challenges with internal investigations is developing rapport with the human sources in the case. This is usually achieved by face-to-face interaction, bringing down the witness’ guard, and evaluating everything from their facial expressions to their body language. With everyone working from home (or not at all), internal investigators have lost access to face-to-face contact with those human sources and witnesses. Investigators have transitioned to conducting crucial interviews over the phone, which may not have as many drawbacks as you think.

Internal investigations can already by tricky without the benefit of seeing the other person’s face or actions. We’re often told that a person’s actions—not their words—are a good indicator of honest or dishonest accounts of any type of incident. Are they blinking too much, or not enough? Are they touching their face? Are they inexplicably breaking out in sweat or becoming flushed? These are all clues private investigators and corporate investigators consider when determining the veracity of a witness’ story. But can you find the truth from only hearing a person’s voice?

Studies indicate that human beings actually can tell a lot more from a person’s voice than their body language when it comes to gauging their level of honesty. Michael Johnson, a former U.S. Department of Justice attorney and CEO of Clear Law Institute, stated “While there are some non-verbal cues to lying, most people don’t know what those are, and sometimes they are the opposite of what you think.” Conducting corporate investigations over the phone doesn’t mean investigators still can’t garner helpful information. Without the distraction of visual stimuli, investigators are able to take detailed notes about a person’s story—the timeline, the verbiage, the tone. Investigators are able to detect inconsistencies in the witness’ story and ask follow-up questions for further context that can benefit the investigation. An interview over the phone also removes any personal biases that an investigator can potentially develop from seeing someone in person with regards to their physical appearance, such as sex, race, and class. The investigator is forced to rely on the information, and is less vulnerable to deception on the part of the witness.

In uncertain times, it feels as though COVID-19 has brought the entire world to a halt. That’s why investigators must lean into one of their greatest skills, which is flexibility. Quarantine doesn’t mean that investigators have to stop their investigations, but they must instead adapt their existing skillset to ensure that the wheels of progress will continue to turn—even in crisis.

Corporate Culture in the Moloson Coors shooting

Molson Coors shooting

Just after lunch last Wednesday, violence erupted in Milwaukee, WI at the famous Molson Coors factory, when an employee walked in with a loaded firearm and began shooting, leaving 5 victims and the shooter deceased. The violence is another in a string of shootings in the workplace that has corporate leadership wondering what their role is in limiting these acts of violence.

The victims in the Milwaukee Molson Coors shooting were identified as Jesus Valle Jr., 33; Gennady Levshetz, 61; Trevor Wetselaar, 33; Dana Walk, 57; and Dale Hudson, 60. The shooter, electrician Anthony N. Ferrill, 51, is deceased as well. Those victims, Ferrill’s coworkers, are remembered by the dozens of friends and family they left behind, as well as a community rocked by violence. Molson Coors chief executive Gavin Hattersley said in a news conference, “They were husbands, they were fathers, and they were friends. They were a part of the fabric of our company and our community, and we will miss them terribly.”

While many acts of violence in the workplace are perpetrated by former employees, Anthony Ferrill was a current employee of Molson Coors. Ferrill worked in the building’s utilities department. While authorities have not established a clear motive for the shooting, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Ferrill had a history of dispute with his coworkers that many have speculated finally came to a head in the events leading up to last week’s shooting. The dispute may have had racial overtones, with Ferrill accusing other employees of discriminating against him in the workplace. He had suspicions that other employees were trespassing at his home, bugging his electronic devices, and disturbing his property. With the exception of one man, Ferrill had previous confrontations with all the victims, yet police have declined to comment on how the shooting occurred.

When shocking incidents of violence like this occur in the workplace, it’s not uncommon to hear from leadership in the organization that they are ‘shocked,’ or ‘astonished’ at the events that have taken place, or that the violence was perpetrated by a member of their organization. The reality is that active shooter events and other forms of violence in the workplace can usually be anticipated and prevented if leadership is not asleep at the wheel.

Most workplace crises, from violence to theft, can be traced back to faulty internal operations. That’s why so many corporations are seeking to have their daily operations evaluated by independent investigators and risk assessment firms. These investigators come into your business and begin examining hiring processes, onboarding materials, employee engagement, and the turnover rate in an attempt to identify the problems that cause frustration within the organization. In the unfortunate example of Molsen Coors, there was obviously room for more supervision with regards to intra-employee conflict. If the alleged intra-employee conflict had been given more attention, it might not have ended in violence.

Corporate Culture Audit investigators can provide leadership with the insight they need to improve their daily operations. Investigators can review hiring protocol, identifying risk factors and lack of oversight. They can review security systems, both in cyberspace, and at brick-and-mortar locations to identify weaknesses that would leave the company vulnerable to attack. These are measures that could have prevented the violence that broke out at Molson Coors, and they can protect your company, too.

If your corporation or organization needs a corporate culture audit, call Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our corporate culture audit program. Our program is built to fit businesses of any size and is customizable to fit you investigative needs. Call 317-951-1100 or visit us online at www.lauthinvestigations.com

Top 5 Internal Corporate Issues in 2020

Top 5 Internal Corporate Issues in 2020

Top 5 Internal Corporate Issues in 2020

Corporations and nonprofits are in mutual company in 2020 as new rules and regulations of corporation oversight and employment go into effect. Leadership will have to step up their administrative supervision of their internal processes to ensure they don’t violate new legislature. Luckily, hiring a private investigator to ensure your company is compliant with new administrative legislature at the fraction of a cost to expand your corporation’s internal investigation team.

Sexual Harassment Prevention

Legislature and leadership alike are refocusing their personnel priorities to push sexual harassment to the forefront of their reform. In addition to ratcheting up sexual harassment prevention, but all forms of harassment within their workplace. A recent NLRB decision that would allow leadership to enforce total confidentiality during internal investigation, which will assist the identification of predators within any workforce. Private investigators are ideal candidates to seek out the predator in any corporation or organization, because they can infiltrate the workforce under the radar and collect evidence and testimony that might otherwise be lost.

Immigration, Worksite Enforcement & Background Screening

Employers can look forward to the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) increasing oversight on work sites, evaluating hiring processes, and ensuring every employee is able to legally work in the United States. Employers who do not comply will be subject to both civil and criminal penalties that can be devastating to an organization. Private investigators have vast databases at their disposal to obtain work and residency records for potential hire, applying proven screening methods to ensure no personnel are a legal liability.

Independent Contractors

Legislature is also holding companies to a higher standard of responsibility when their independent or sub-contractors incur legal trouble or have grievances against the parent organization. A bill in California known as AB 5 would make it more difficult to classify a worker as an independent or sub-contractor, a measure that would effect employers both in California and throughout the nation. When contractors are successfully classified as such, you’ll need a private investigator on your side to comprehensively vet the situation. With their full investigative toolbox, private investigators can get to the truth about inciting events that led to legal action, collecting evidence, speaking to worksite foremen, and provide comprehensive solutions to employers.

Overtime

Private investigators can also lend their prowess to individuals who believe a corporation is misappropriating funds in order to comply with a Department of Labor measure that requires employers to pay a minimum percentage of total salary in order to satisfy overtime requirements. Private investigators who specialize in financial fraud and misappropriation are able to review a corporation’s internal processes and open-source financial records to document the appropriation of overtime pay.

Data Privacy

With the ubiquity of technology and digital communication systems, corporate data—especially with regard to transparency—is a trending issue in public discourse. Whether through legal channels or otherwise, corporations and organizations need to protect their data from falling into the wrong hands. A private investigator can provide any organization with a risk assessment of both their digital and brick-and-mortar security measures from top to bottom—identifying cracks in the system and providing expert recommendations to ensure internal information stays internal. Private investigators can also identify potential whistleblowers in a workforce by examining individual risk factors and patterns of behavior.

Former Wells Fargo executive slapped with $17.5 billion in fines

Former Wells Fargo executive slapped with $17.5 billion in fines

John Stumpf has been slapped with the largest fine ever levied against a single individual in litigative history.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a division of the Treasury Department in the United States, has finally stuck a blow against one of the most reckless financial institutions in the nation, Wells Fargo. This federal department has linked a former chief executive of Wells Fargo with compulsion on the part of leadership to encourage Wells Fargo employees to set up fraudulent accounts that would hold extracted fees from customers.

John Stumpf, the former executive in question, has been slapped with a monumental fine totaling approximately $17.5 million. The extent of the misconduct was so severe, that the OCC also banned Stumpf from the banking industry for the rest of his life. He was not alone—a former head of banking at Wells Fargo, Carrie Tolstedt is also facing a fine of $25 million.

The Office of the Comptroller of Currency has also issued a notice which argues that Wells Fargo has engaged in toxic business practices over the last ten years, compelling employees to exhibit “serious misconduct” in order to meet “intentionally unreasonable sales goals.” The notice went on to say that the corporation operated within an environment of malignant leadership, indicated by “…an atmosphere that perpetuated improper illegal conduct.”

Wells Fargo’s head of corporate investigations testified before the Office of the Comptroller of Currency, informing them that there was hypervigilance on part of leadership with regards to sales quotas, but lethargic oversight with regards to illegal sales practices. It was apparent to the corporate investigator that leadership was indifferent to how employees met sales quotas, as long as those quotas were consistently met. Lower-level employees were made accomplices—single cogs in a large clockwork corporate fraud.

As the saying goes, “the fish stinks from the head,” and the litigative implications of these proceedings have indicated Wells Fargo reeks of poor corporate culture. Regardless of whether or not it is healthy, corporate culture moves in a cycle, with cause-and-effect factors that can often be traced back to leadership. Not only should leadership be an example for the entire corporation, but their interpersonal conduct within the workplace directly effects their employees’ engagement and productivity. Executives who impose unreasonable or unattainable goals on their employees are setting them up for failure, absolving themselves from responsibility when goals are not met. This leads to a toxic, high-pressure work environment where employees don’t just feel unsupported, but also devalued in the eyes of their employer. Employee engagement goes down, and consequently, so does productivity. This frustrates leadership, which then reacts by tightening their grip, beginning the cycle anew. If your corporation experiences persistent problems with leadership misconduct, it’s definitely time for a corporate culture audit. Corporate culture audits are like checkups for your business. Independent investigators come into your business and evaluate all operations—communication, record-keeping, hiring processes, and employee engagement. They identify the cause of these malignant symptoms and provide the corporation with expert recommendations that will ultimately propel their organization forward. If your corporation needs a corporate culture audit, call Lauth Investigations International today at 317-951-1100 to get a free quote, or contact us online at www.lauthinvestigations.com

National Law Relations Board reverses controversial position on internal investigations

National Law Relations Board reverses controversial position on internal investigations

The National Law Relations Board reverses controversial position on internal investigations.

Employers across the country have operated in a sea of gray area when it comes to confidentiality among employees regarding internal investigations. The question remained whether or not employers were able to require employees to keep internal investigations internal while they were in full swing. Prior to the new year, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) finally answered that question.

Previously, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had taken a position that employers could not require employees to keep ongoing internal investigations confidential because it generally violated labor law. Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act guarantees employees “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.” Universal requirement of confidentiality could potentially interfere with that law. Confidentiality in internal investigations was instead dealt with on a case-by-case basis, with no precedent for blanket confidentiality. This topic has been in review by the NLRB since May of 2019, but it was only recently that the board announced that they had reversed their position.

By their very nature, internal investigations are already a big headache for many employers. Further compounding these frustrations is the ideation that no internal investigation can generate meaningful results unless the integrity of the internal investigation is maintained by all employees of the corporation or organization. This new standard of approval by the National Labor Relations Board is a categorical win for employers.  The win comes down to one word—duration. In articulating their decision, the majority wrote,

“There are obvious mutual interests to be served by encouraging and allowing employees to report wrongdoing without fear of reprisal from the subject of the investigation. Among other considerations, such reporting promotes the goals of the antidiscrimination statutes by helping employers eradicate workplace discrimination and deal with it promptly and effectively when it occurs.”

This articulation is indirectly evocative of the cycle of corporate culture, a process by which cause and effect on the parts of both leadership and employees in pursuit of improved operations leads to a healthy corporate culture for the entire workforce.

While there are concerns that the future of this reversal may affect an employee’s ability to organize, the projection of this reversal is very good news for internal investigations. In any investigation, the control of information is critical to finding solutions to the corporate crisis, allowing investigators to use tried-and-true methodology to get to the root of the problem. With the NLRB finally taking a position that allows employers to require confidentiality, the integrity of those internal investigations can now be maintained from the onset, leading to clearer solutions for the pervasive issues that malign corporations and organizations.