Private Investigator Abuse: An Professional Ethics Dilemma

Private Investigator Abuse: An Professional Ethics Dilemma

Private investigator abuse is an unethical practice by which private investigator services are used to harass and intimidate others. This can come in many forms, like visible surveillance operations, and fact-finding/blackmail. Hiring a private investigator in a time of personal or corporate crisis is one of the greatest ways to get answers. Private investigators are trained, licensed professionals who use their diverse skillsets to get answers for their clients. These services are designed to give individuals context and peace of mind when they are making complex decisions in their corporate or personal lives. However, not every client who hires a private investigator does so in search of truth. Some clients seek to abuse intelligence services as a means of intimidation or harassment, and it is a practice private investigators must quash. Private investigator abuse is a real form of harassment that is utilized every day by both high-profile clients and private clients, and only serves to bury the truth further where clarification is needed.

Private investigator abuse and harassment completely fly in the face of private investigations—and independent, objective look at a complex situations concluding with comprehensive solutions. Intelligence services should be used just for that—finding empowering facts and intelligence. It is the pursuit of the truth, meant to be used to restore balance and perspective in a given set of circumstances. Once a private investigator turns over their findings to a client, with few exceptions, a private investigator cannot be held ethically responsible for what the client does with that information. However, when clients use private investigators on regular basis to harass and intimidate others, this is a misuse of the practice. Private investigators are typically independent contractors who can choose who they work for and when they work, meaning that they do have choices when it comes to using their professional talents to harm others. When the job is about bringing facts to light, it seems incongruent  to use these services to keep things in the shadows.

When private investigator abuse occurs on the international stage, it further detracts from the true nature of private investigations, validating every trope in film and television of private investigators as parasitic, seedy characters with dishonest intentions. Since 2018, the world has heard the cry of #MeToo when it comes to exposing sexual abusers in the workplace and private life. Among the men who were accused of sexual misconduct, the most famous is arguably Harvey Weinstein, the American movie producer whose crimes of sexual assault and rape got him convicted and sentenced to 23 years in prison. When allegations about Weinstein first broke, he set to work weaponizing private intelligence against his accusers. Ronan Farrow, an American journalist, first reported in The New Yorker that Weinstein was using private investigators of the firm known as Black Cube to dig up information on the numerous actresses and other women who claimed Weinstein assaulted them. The investigators combed through the accusers’ personal lives, building psychological profiles and aggregating information on them that could be used to intimidate or silence them, and it didn’t stop there. Donning the guise of a women’s rights advocate, one of the highly-trained operatives met with one of his accusers, Rose McGowan, attempting to aggregate information from her on the case. That same operative also pretended to be another of Weinstein’s victims in order to speak with a journalist and get names of the women involved. Weinstein’s attempts to subjugate the justice system by frightening his accusers into silence on such a massive level was patently private investigator abuse.

Harvey Weinstein is not the only high-profile clients that utilizes private investigator abuse to intimidate and control others. The Church of Scientology is also a documented culprit of using private investigator abuse to control members of their church and members of the church’s clergy. In recent years, documentaries and docuseries like Going Clear and Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath have brought to light the private investigator abuse utilized by the Church of Scientology. It’s difficult to qualify how high-ranking members of the church weaponized private investigators without going into detail about the doctrines of Scientology. Suffice it to say that when individuals decide they wish to leave the Church of Scientology, it was common practice for high-ranking members of the religion’s Sea Organization to send private investigators after individuals who had left the church, using manipulation, blackmail, and extortion to bring these straying members back the flock. In the same way Harvey Weinstein used private investigators to silence his victims, the Church of Scientology also has a documented history of using private investigators to harass and intimidate their detractors. In one episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, Leah Remini herself and former Sea Organization executive Mike Rinder are followed by a pair of private investigators while shooting footage in the field. What’s particularly disturbing about the Church of Scientology’s private investigator abuse is that no one is immune to this seedy form of harassment. Ron Miscavige, the father of the church’s leader, David Miscavige, claimed in an interview in 2016 that his own son had also placed private investigators on his father’s trail after Ron Miscavige and his wife escaped from Scientology in 2012. David Miscavige instructed the private investigators to follow his father and ensure that he would not go to press with information about the church following his departure. Miscavige put the private investigator in such a position that on one occasion, during a surveillance operation, the private investigator observed Ron Miscavige having what looked like a heart attack from across the street. The investigator immediately sought counsel from the client on how he should proceed, and Miscavige allegedly told the private investigator to let Ron succumb to the heart attack. According to a police report, stating that David Miscavige told the investigator “…if it was Ron’s time to die, let him die, and not intervene in any way.” This is the implicit extreme of private investigator abuse, in which the client puts the private investigator in the position of being indifferent to human life in the name of getting a more desirable result.

The simple answer to preventing private investigator abuse is that professionals must know when to say no to a client who wants to contract them for nefarious purposes. The free market means that professionals are free to choose where they work and how they apply their trade. Knowing that knowledge is power, it then behooves the private investigators of the world to take careful consideration when deciding to take a case and perform due-diligence in assuring that their clients are above board in the retention of private investigator services.

University Investigations: How Private Investigators Can Help

University Investigations: How Private Investigators Can Help

Unviersity investigations require independent investigators

It is not uncommon for university investigations to feature some level of noncompliance and the university not cooperating with police or law enforcement. An aura of austerity and secrecy develops as the top decision-markers close ranks and circle the wagons to protect the interests of the university. No one usually thinks of universities as corporations, but they do bring in billions of dollars per year throughout the United States, much of that cash flow coming from private donors whose interests must also be protected during the investigation. Private investigators can take the same skillsets that allow them to expose misconduct within a corporation and apply them to university investigations.

Corporate investigations vs. university investigations

University investigations are rather common, though the investigation type is not always the same. When it comes to intelligence operations, private universities as an entity are a proverbial garden of opportunities for private investigators to apply their trade. There are two principal pools where the crime and misconduct are found. There’s the student body, who finds time for socializing and partying when they’re not hitting the books. Crimes committed within the student body may not be easily closed, either because the students involved or the university itself are not cooperating. The other common pool of opportunity is in the university faculty. While a university is not strictly a corporation, they experience similar workplace environments and are subject to the same workplace dynamics as businesses or nonprofits. There’s harassment between coworkers, financial misconduct, other forms of fraud, bribery, and collusion. These are all opportunities for private investigators to apply their methodology in a way that can improve a university for both the faculty and the student body.

Sexual assault investigations

Anyone who has ever seen a Dick Wolf police procedural knows that one of the most common crimes associated with universities is sexual assault. RAINN, the country’s largest organization combatting sexual violence estimates “11.2% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.” Sexual violence on campuses is pervasive and it is not uncommon for the university police to be ill-equipped or unwilling to help. InvestigateWest calls the phenomenon “a culture of indifference.” If the survivor then supersedes campus police and reports the assault to their local police department, a faulty investigation on behalf of campus police—either intentionally or otherwise—can severely impact the police’s investigation. This often leaves survivors with no recourse for justice, and are often compelled to continue attending classes in the same vicinity as their alleged attacker. This extends not only to student-on-student assault, but also between faculty and student, with even more devastatingly high stakes for the university as well as the survivor. Repeated instances in which the university ultimately shields the accused and displays documented negligence in properly investigating the survivor’s allegations can constitute a pattern of misconduct.

Violence, vandalism and theft

While sexual assault is one of the most serious and heinous crimes associated with campus life and work, there are other issues of student misconduct that require proper investigative methodology that campus police or local law enforcement might be ill-equipped to handle. Things such as theft, vandalism, stalking, and other forms of violence can also go unchecked if not properly investigated. When a victim has no recourse from other authorities, a private investigator can be the perfect professional to provide crucial context. Their proficiency in running comprehensive background checks and locating subjects, private investigators can make contact with elusive persons of interests in university investigations. Private investigators can go undercover, documenting behavior and actions that might otherwise be concealed. Private investigators also have an investigative edge over law enforcement. Though they are licensed and bonded by the states, private investigators are still private citizens. Young adults ages 18-24 typically have a great deal to lose in university investigations, including financial loss, loss of scholarships or grants, expulsion, arrest, and fallout with their families. This fosters a pattern of noncooperation with law enforcement in order to minimize consequences for themselves and their friends. Another critical factor is that underage drinking and illegal drug use are synonymous with campus culture, which could prompt additional consequences. However, private investigators have no powers of arrest, which can lead to the cooperation of subjects in university investigations. This dislodges any roadblocks in case progression, increasing the likelihood of a solution.

Faculty subjects in university investigations

Describing the impact of the crimes previously described become exponentially more devastating when you expand the pool of perpetrators to university faculty and staff. Furthermore, the level of noncooperation with investigating bodies when it comes to university investigations typically increases when it involves a staff member, and is proportional to their role within the university. The college admissions scandal in 2019, involving high profile defendants Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, showed everyone how much bad press universities can get when misconduct is exposed on the national stage, and universities are invested in minimizing such exposure. They stand to lose endorsements, contracts, sponsorships, and drops in enrollment rates as students and parents refuse to participate in an application process that has proven to be financially rigged. Private investigators can apply the same investigative methodology used in corporate investigations and apply it to university investigations. Undercover operations, surveillance operations, witness location, and evidence gathering are all services that private investigators use to expose misconduct within organizations, and universities are no exception. In addition to the crimes previously described, employee misconduct in university investigations such as fraud, embezzlement, bribery, admissions fraud, racism, and sexual harassment.

Hiring a private investigator adds an additional degree of integrity to university investigations. Because private investigators are independent of the university and law enforcement, their findings stand up to a higher degree of scrutiny at the conclusion of an investigation and in a court of law. Because private investigators are not bound by jurisdiction or by a chain of command, they are usually better equipped to push back against noncooperation in university investigations. The private investigators of Lauth Investigations International are staffed by former law enforcement and military personnel with diverse experience in applying investigative methods to complex situations in pursuit of truth for our clients. We provide comprehensive reports and expert recommendations.

If you need a private investigator for a university investigation, call Lauth Investigations International today at 317-951-1100, or visit us online at www.lauthinvestigations.com.

Employee Malingering During COVID-19

Employee Malingering During COVID-19

employee malingering

Is there a way to stamp out employee malingering? The answer is complicated.

Employee malingering is becoming a problem for some employers. As some states move forward with plans to open their states back up during the global COVID-19 pandemic, many are looking forward to life returning to some semblance of normalcy. While businesses make plans to reopen their doors, there are others that will keep the bulk of their operations remote with employees working from home in order to mitigate the spread of the disease. While many employers feel this precaution is still prudent, there is the additional layer of anxiety about whether employees are keeping their noses to the grindstone, or malingering.

Obviously, these are strange times. A majority of businesses in the United States were forced to shut down direct business to customer operations in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Employees who were not furloughed or laid off due to COVID-19 have been forced to adjust to a new working life devoid of work-life balance—their work is literally in the home—complete with the distraction of children, family, pets, spouses, and other household distractions. It is a stressful time, and it can be difficult to maintain focus. Corporations and organizations should always prioritize their employee’s mental health for the sake of their corporate culture. These predictable challenges with suddenly working from home should not be considered employee malingering. However, willful malingering can lay huge blows to daily productivity and ultimately profits. Employers must have a way to verify whether or not their employees are actually working.

Under more normal, stable circumstances, employers have the benefit of face to face interaction for determining how engaged and productive their employees are. In addition to output, supervisors can note how many breaks they take, the quality of the work, and the level of communication from the employee, both on and offline. However, remote working has made detecting employee malingering almost impossible.

Telecommunication technology has played a vital role in facilitating the continuation of the economy despite the quarantine. Meetings are held over Zoom, employee time is tracked through invoices or through an online time clock of sorts that allows employees to log their time worked and have their timesheets stored on a cloud server. Short of a live camera feed that documents the employee in front of the computer or on the phone, is there truly a way to verify if they are actually working?

The idea of hiring a private investigator to surveil your employees may sound strange or even wrong, but it’s a highly common business practice that legally exposes the drain an individual employee might be having on your company. Private investigators can track an employee’s movements during the time they have invoiced or logged, ensuring that any errands outside the home are work-related and have some value to the corporation. Private investigators can document these movements with GPS trackers placed under their car, photographing their activities in public to either prove or disprove employee malingering. Private investigators are trained to blend in with their surroundings, and conduct surveillance discretely to prevent their cover from being blown, so in the event that no employee malingering is found, no one is the wiser.

If you suspect your employee is malingering on your dime, reach out to Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our surveillance services. Call us at 317-951-1100, or visit our website at 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.

Fishbowl Investigations: Conducting Visible Internal Investigations

Fishbowl Investigations: Conducting Visible Internal Investigations

Corporations that have seen a decline in their corporate culture are turning to internal investigation and risk assessment firms for help in 2020. The discourse around corporate culture has evolved significantly over the last few years, with employees voicing their desire for work-life balance and how corporate culture directly impacts their decision to stay with a company. Leadership is better-educating themselves on how their actions feed into the cycle of corporate culture, and how they can improve employee retention by making meaningful changes that grease the wheels of success in their business or organization. However, many corporations have their anxieties about conducting internal investigations in a fishbowl—where employees are able to see the methodology in motion—and how this will impact their workforce and their business.

Corporations can find themselves open to scrutiny from both their employees and their customer-base when they announce an impending internal investigation. Some corporations, for a myriad of reasons, opt to have internal investigations under a cloak of classification in order to protect the integrity of the investigation—however, in the interest of transparency, many corporations opt for a visible investigation, warning employees, shareholders, customers, or all of the above, of an impending internal investigation. This means that the investigating bodies will be under a microscope of scrutiny within the corporation, as their methodology, decorum, and their practices will a source of debate around the proverbial watercooler.

Regardless of who is contracted to conduct the internal investigation, or under what level of declassification, if there is visibility of an investigation, there is a delicate balance of transparency and professionalism needed in pursuit of the truth. One of the most difficult tasks an internal investigator has at the inception of the investigation is establishing a rapport with relevant parties, such as leadership and the workforce in order to garner frankness from persons who will be crucial to the fact-finding process.

Investigators must establish credibility with the client and relevant subjects in the case. This means ensuring those individuals are aware that the investigator shares their values and is only interested in identifying problems to improve the business—not damage it—indicating a high level of accountability that will have a ripple effect throughout the corporation or organization.

In tandem with establishing credibility, investigators must be straightforward about their objectives, outlining what the client hopes to achieve and their proposed methods of reaching that goal. Investigators must never make promises they cannot keep by making declarations before they know the facts. Corporate investigators must always pursue a resolution to a business’s problem that does not impair their long-term goals—by the same token, it is imperative that the investigator informs the client that there might be some negative consequences as the result of their findings, such as turnover, further inquiries, or bad publicity.

Objectivity is key in any internal investigation. It’s one of the reasons some companies elect to have a private investigator or risk assessment firm conduct their investigation, as opposed to an in-house investigator or member of house counsel. No employee with a stake in the outcome of the investigation, even indirectly, may be 100% objective in identifying pervasive issues in an organization. In addition to that objectivity, an independent investigator—unknown to the corporation or organization—investigators can move through a workplace undetected. This will take the edge off of the “fishbowl” factor that is common with internal corporate investigations. Private investigators can adopt a persona and conduct their investigations without the eyes of concerned coworkers; interviewing employees, collecting evidence, evaluating the location, and reviewing internal communications can all be conducted in plain sight.

Internal corporate investigations with a “fishbowl” factor can be an inherent challenge for corporations. Above all, it’s important to remember that employees are your greatest asset, as they feed into a cycle of corporate culture that can successfully stimulate your business or organization. An appropriate level of trust and care must always be taken when subjecting your workforce to an internal investigation. When employees feel valued, they will become empowered and engaged to give their best to the benefit of your organization.

The Cycle of Corporate Culture

The Cycle of Corporate Culture

Culture can be the beginning and end of your company. Many executives and other members of leadership simply think of corporate culture as what the company stands for. This can be expressed through a corporation’s mission statement, their reported “vision,” or their promise to deliver their customers with the best products and services available. Corporate culture actually goes much deeper, beneath the surface to which the consumer public is privy. The MISTI Training Institute actually defines corporate culture as “the set of enduring and underlying assumptions and norms that determine how things are actually done in the organization.” It is not enough for leadership to state that they have inspiring beliefs and mission statements, if they do not run corporations to reflect those beliefs.

Even after hearing a more definitive explanation of corporate culture, many executives may still shrug their shoulders and insist that they have a great corporate culture. They think operations are streamlined, employees are engaged, and there are no weak links in the chain. They take solace in the fact that they have things like Taco Tuesdays, or Casual Fridays that improve the work environment and keep employees happy. While these are great ways to foster comradery within the workforce, they are band aid solutions to happy employees. The bottom line is: Healthy corporate culture begins with happy employees.

A recent study conducted by Glassdoor indicates that a majority of working individuals in the United States would prefer a healthy corporate culture to a higher salary or rate of pay. Their day-to-day becomes manageable when they feel as if they are part of a larger team. This graphic displays the cyclical nature of healthy corporate culture in motion. The cycle begins with happy employees. When trying to improve employee morale, leadership should strongly consider an internal audit of their company’s culture to identify pervasive issues within their corporation’s operating structure. Events like birthday parties for employees, or buying lunch for the office every few weeks are nice gestures by leadership, but they cannot act as solutions to repetitive issues. When these issues are not addressed within the corporation, employees often feel as if their value begins and ends with their productivity, as if they are cogs in a larger machine they cannot control. When leadership actively engages with employee concern on operation issues and makes dedicated and focused attempts to fix them, employees feel as if their voices are heard and their input is valued within the organization.

This leads to improved engagement on behalf of those valued employees. They are prompt to work, freshly-groomed and instilled with a sense of purpose as their co-workers progress with them towards the organization’s goal. The level of communication between employees will not only improve in quality, but the rate of response to correspondence also has the potential to increase dramatically, because the employees are engaged in the process and are eager to complete tasks on time—possibly even early.

Once employee engagement is up, leadership can expect to see an increase in the productivity of the workforce as a whole. Engaged employees approach their task with the confidence of a professional, and the confidence that comes from the feeling of support within the organization. Studies have shown that productivity can increase by as much as 28% when a corporation’s culture is given a major overhaul.

When productivity increases, everybody in the company benefits. Having their requisites satisfied, leadership can let their focus extend beyond daily operations. This expanded scope of supervision leads to higher engagement on behalf of leadership, which feeds back into a healthy work environment in which they are happy to reward the stellar performance of their employees. When employees feel their work is valued, the cycle begins anew.

This shared body of beliefs that the company claims to have in the public eye should go all the way to the CEO and be directly reflected in the day to day operations of the company. When leadership remains plugged in and continues to expand the scope of their supervision, internal issues cannot pervade within the workplace. In healthy work environments, the level of improvement that can occur week to week will only serve the company’s larger goals.