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.

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

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

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.

Employee Theft: A Symptom of Poor Corporate Culture

Regardless of the industry, all businesses should be vigilant with regards to employee theft. Employee theft can come in all shapes and sizes, from an administrative assistant pocketing some extra Post-Its to hardcore embezzlement on behalf of leadership. It can be easy to dismiss repeated instances of employee theft as isolated incidents, implementing disciplinary action or termination, and moving on with the work week. However, many executives and managers may not realize that repeated instances of employee theft could be indicative of a much larger problem in their corporation or organization.

From a position of leadership, it’s easy to dismiss a single instance of employee theft; the employee is the one who made a choice to steal from their company or organization, and that employee was wrong for doing so. Discipline or termination typically follows, and leadership walks away feeling confident that they’ve removed a bad apple from their barrel. However, pervasive issues with employee theft are symptomatic of a systematic problem within the business or organization that go beyond a single employee’s bad judgement.

Why do employees steal?

The three most common reasons employees steal are not very difficult to understand.

  • employees feel as though their employer has wronged them, or their compensation is inadequate.
  • employees believe that employers insure such losses—therefore it is a victimless crime.
  • employees know they will not be held accountable if they are caught

All of these reasons may characterize the employee as “disgruntled,” a term with a cultural context that often absolves the employer of any misconduct. When a corporation or organization has repeated instances of multiple employees committing theft, it’s a sign that the corporate culture of the workplace is less than healthy. A single employee pilfering staplers is not symptomatic of unhealthy corporate culture, but 5 employees pilfering staplers is a sign that employees do not feel valued, and therefore do not respect their employer.

The cycle of healthy corporate culture always begins with happy employees, because when employees are happy, they are more engaged, and contribute positively to the productivity of the organization. This pleases leadership, which incentivizes them to make decisions that raise morale, such as rewarding success with pay-raises, benefits, and thoughtful, constructive collaboration. The cycle begins anew with happy employees. Poor corporate culture means that undervalued employees will contribute negatively to workplace productivity. One of the ways poor corporate culture manifests is through employee theft—and it’s not just about profits or staplers. When employees are disengaged from their duties, they’re more likely to take extraneous breaks, or taking longer breaks than permitted, which is theft of company time. This often comes from a rationalized perspective, in which the employee does not feel their own time is valued within the organization, and therefore will place the same perceived value on company time.

Whatever the type of theft, repeated instances of employee theft cannot be ignored. It may be a sign that your business or organization needs a corporate culture audit. A corporate culture audit is like a check-up—when you go into the doctor for a standard check-up, they evaluate all of your major bodily functions for signs of disease or deterioration, and a corporate culture audit is no different. When investigators conduct a corporate culture audit, they evaluate all of your business’s internal operations, hiring processes, and principle employees for roadblocks that hinder productivity and contribute to poor corporate culture. The identification of these pervasive issues will lead to investigators providing leadership with expert recommendations to dislodge the blockage, allowing the cycle of corporate culture to right itself through cause and effect.

If you think your business or organization needs a corporate culture audit, call Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our Corporate Culture Audit program. For over 30 years, Lauth has been providing corporations with solutions to stimulate their business. In pursuit of truth, call 317-951-1100, or visit us online at www.lauthinvestigations.com.

A Nonprofit Background Check Can Save Your Organization

A Nonprofit Background Check Can Save Your Organization

When putting together a team to supervise your money, it helps to know who you’re dealing with…

Nonprofit organizations can do great work in promoting community growth, providing assistance to those in need, and raising money to fund research in the name of bringing solutions to some of the globe’s most comprehensive issues. These organizations must be above reproach, and as such, their board members must be individuals of the highest integrity. That’s why it’s imperative nonprofit organizations establish policy that dictates board members are subjected to a comprehensive background check.

It’s true that there is no requirement for a nonprofit organization to establish a board of directors, but an overwhelming majority of nonprofits do so. This is often a necessity, as many banks will not establish an account for a nonprofit without supervisory leadership. Donors also consider this leadership essential to ensuring their donations are spent wisely and in the best interest of the cause. In addition, organizations that issue grants are more interested in nonprofits in which their monetary awards are also well-managed, due mostly in part to the fact they must answer for how their monies are allocated.  Small business journal, Chron, put it best, “The board’s duties are fiduciary. This means the board is trusted to act in the best interests of its organization, regardless of personal interest.”

A board of directors for a nonprofit is designed to promote progression within an organization by virtue of diverse management and comprehensive collaboration. Because an organization’s supervisory leadership can depend on their ability to serve their cause, that board must have impenetrable integrity. Therefore, even nonprofits cannot afford to skimp on background checks for leadership.

When establishing a board of directors, there are often misconceptions on what a comprehensive background check encompasses. The term “background check” is an umbrella term that can refer to one or all of a list of screening processes that both organizations and corporations use to verify the employability of an individual. This can include a report that offers details on a person’s criminal and employment history, and a review of their financial history.

A nonprofit background check is the first step in protecting your organization, but not every executive sees it that way. It’s not uncommon for nonprofits to cherry pick through the wide range of areas that a comprehensive background check includes, either to save time and/or money, or because only one or two areas of such a report are a priority for board leadership. Areas of high priority include criminal history, sex offender registry, or a basic credit report. Even if a nonprofit checked all of these boxes when conducting a background check, that would still not rise to the standard of comprehensive when verifying a potential board member’s history.

A comprehensive background check includes:

  • Verification of a candidate’s social security number
  • Work history
  • Credit check
  • Driving records
  • Criminal records
  • Information on registered vehicles
  • Relevant court documents
  • Reference quality
  • Asset ownership
  • Military service records
  • Criminal registry information, such as sex offender registry

This list can sound staggering to the member of staff charged with appropriating an organization’s policy to screen a board candidate’s background. Screening a candidate’s background requires thorough research and a cross-reference of information against multiple open sources, such as public records, human sources, and social media. Even if the cost of obtaining supporting documents were not high, the labor hours to internal employees with day-to-day responsibilities can directly contribute to operational losses within a nonprofit organization.

These comprehensive screenings are crucial to the integrity of a nonprofit. After establishing a board of directors, any previously unknown and unflattering information regarding their history that may come to light cannot only be embarrassing for an organization but can negatively impact the support and assistance those nonprofits receive from donors and grant-awarding bodies. If information regarding a red flag in a board member’s history was publicly available (and not sealed by a court of law, or expunged from their record), and negligence occurs on behalf of the board’s supervisory capacity, there can be legal consequences as well. This is why corporations often run comprehensive background checks on their board of directors, or any other supervisory leadership. If for-profit corporations cannot afford to skimp on their background checks, there is no-doubt that nonprofits have even more at stake, including the opportunity to serve their cause.

Operational losses are why it can be prudent to retain an independent investigator to conduct background checks for a nonprofit organization. Firms like those of private investigators or risk assessment specialists can provide another layer of integrity when considering a candidate for board leadership. An external investigator’s independence and autonomy mean they have no stake in the results of a board candidate’s screening, and therefore only have loyalty to the truth. This is where nonprofits can consider candidates with the reassurance they have performed their due diligence, and have done so with the assistance of an objective third-party. All background screenings must be compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act legislation in disclosing the screening to the candidate.

From poor credit to criminal history, no detail is too small when it comes to establishing a board of directors for a nonprofit. Nonprofits may have marketing campaigns, but board diversity and integrity are how they attract monies from grant entities and major donors. That is why a comprehensive background check is an investment for nonprofits that will provide the security of due diligence with the integrity of independent screening.