Every business—from the mom-and-pop shop to corporate America—will encounter some form of crisis during their operation. Crises come in all shapes and sizes, including employee malingering, internal theft, brand protection, and a myriad of lawsuits that could bring an established business to its knees. When disaster strikes, it is the reflex of most companies to handle the matter internally, often delaying important investigative measures out of uncertainty, ignorance on how to proceed, or both. While an internal investigation allows a company to control available information and minimize any consequences, an independent external investigation conducted by a private investigator is the best course when it comes to finding a comprehensive solution to any corporate crisis. The important thing to remember is you cannot wait when a crisis arises, and hiring a private investigator should be one of the first items on your to-do list.
Independent private investigatiors provide the best solutions from the onset of the investigation. Investigators too often run into roadblocks during investigations because they are working from a narrative and timeline that has already been established by an internal party. When you have a qualified and objective investigator handling the investigation from the beginning, it lays a solid foundation that will lead to credible leads, proper gathering of evidence, and quality conversations with potential witnesses.
During a fact-finding process, internal investigators may not have considered all angles and left many leads unexplored. Potential witnesses within the workforce need to be interviewed and their statements recorded, but an internal investigator—usually a Human Resources representative or upper management employee—may not have the qualifications. Any witness testimony may be tainted because the investigator is not properly trained in interview and rapport. Witness statements could also be false or inconsistent because they fear reprisal from an internal investigator who may have clout when it comes to the employee’s future at that business. When a private investigator is retained weeks after the onset of the investigation, witness’s memories may be inaccurate or even non-existent. In some cases, an employee may have already left the company, or changed addresses. This results in more investigative measures required to locate that employee, which costs money and labor hours to the investigator.
Witness statements are valuable, but not so much as hard evidence that cannot be interpreted for a particular spin. One common example is surveillance footage. An internal investigator may think to pull surveillance footage from a single camera near the site of the incident or crisis, but the investigator may not pull surveillance footage from other cameras that could contain valuable information. Most companies invest in security systems that recycles surveillance tape after a short period of time, sometimes as little as five days. Once an independent private investigator is retained, valuable footage is gone, and other fact-finding measures will be necessary—again, more time and money at the cost to the company.
It is possible for an internal investigation to play out smoothly—at least at first glance. Even if the internal investigator is well-qualified to conduct the investigation, there will always be the question of objectivity when dealing with an internal investigation. A successful investigation that concludes with the termination of an employee who was found to be at fault for the crisis or incident has the potential to result in legal action. In this example, it would be a wrongful-termination suit. When argued in a court of law, it’s easy for the terminated employee to cast doubt on their former employer by citing the investigation into their wrongdoing was conducted by an internal employee with a direct stake in the outcome. When a private investigator handles the investigation from beginning to end, there will never be a question of objectivity, because a private investigator’s task is to find the truth—not manufacture a solution that will mollify their client.
When your company encounters a crisis, do not hesitate to retain a private investigator to find a solution. The time and resources spent on an internal investigation may all be in vain when the chips are down. To protect your business and its profits, take immediate action when a corporate crisis arrives by retaining a private investigator that will provide you with the expertise and objectivity for a successful solution.
If your business has encountered a corporate crisis, call Lauth Investigations International today for a free consultation. Call 317-951-1100 or find us online at www.lauthinvestigations.com
Even if you’re not a fan of Fox’s successful prime time drama, Empire, you’re likely aware of the name Jussie Smollett by now. Smollett has come under fire in the media and on the internet for his allegedly false account of a racially-motivated attack against him in January, where he alleged two men attempted to strangle him and pour bleach on him. When the story first broke, it was shaping up to be a watershed moment in conversations about how the current administration is affecting race-relations throughout the country. After law enforcement conducted an investigation into his version of events, they’ve released statements that Smollett may have hired the men responsible to help him stage the attack. The case has created divisive new conversations about the United States’ current political climate, but is also prompting career investigators to highlight the importance of thorough and diligent fact-finding in the early stages of any investigation—especially within corporations.
Conducting an investigation with unimpeachable integrity is very similar to building a structure ready to withstand natural disasters. Laying a firm groundwork from the moment of the intake narrative will set an impregnable foundation allowing investigators and support staff to develop strong leads. Investigators must be prepared to ask every question—albeit inane or delicate—in order to ensure they are getting all of the existing, relevant information on the case. This is a process called fact-finding, in which a victim or witness’s statement is documented and entered into record, thereby allowing investigators to thoroughly vet every aspect of their statement. Were they in fact present when the incident took place? Can they accurately describe the alleged perpetrator? Is their story consistent across multiple iterations?
As is the case with any investigation, operatives are racing against the clock. With time, witnesses’ memories fade and witnesses themselves disappear, having relocated or simply left town. As time goes by, evidence is eroded, eventually disappearing, eliminating the leads they might have developed. This is why thorough fact-finding is so important, because investigators who are operating off false or inaccurate leads can lose days or weeks on a case as they chase a lead that will eventually come to no end. While investigators chase those dead leads, the truth about what actually occurred dissolves into obscurity.
Investigators in the Smollett case were able to vet his account of events and discover there may be more to the story than meets the eye. The case was not an isolated incident of allegedly false accusations having major consequences for the parties involved. Regardless of why an individual would make false accusations—whether it was with malice or simply a mistake—these circumstances could occur in many areas of life that could be devastating to both individuals and corporations.
Allegations of misconduct in the workplace immediately come to mind. Whether it’s allegations of theft or sexual harassment, these are the kinds of cases where it’s crucial to have the intake narrative well-documented, with detailed first accounts from all principles on the who, where, when, how, and why in any series of events. Cases regarding misconduct in the workplace have a higher chance of being litigated following the completion of any investigation, usually through civil and wrongful termination lawsuits.
A thorough and diligent private investigator is an invaluable asset to both sides of any investigation, as they are an independent third party and do not have a stake in the outcome of the investigation. Any fact-finding performed by an objective third party stands up to a much higher degree of scrutiny by the opposition. Investigators who are directly employed by any parties in either side have a lot to lose if their employer faces ruin following a lawsuit.
Which brings us to another issue in handling the fact-finding internally. Internal investigators can have a variety of qualifications depending on the corporation’s procedure. It’s true some businesses have licensed investigators on retainer to assist in regular operations, like a business who hires a private investigator to run a background check on a candidate for an upper management position. However, depending on the size of the company, the investigating party in some corporate crises is just the head of Human Resources—who might then be supervising other subordinates to do the legwork. Human Resource managers are invaluable employees who keep businesses running like clockwork, but this does not necessarily qualify them to conduct an investigation in every possible scenario, such as investigations requiring surveillance, undercover work, or properly documenting any evidence that might be recovered. This kind of oversight can have disastrous consequences in the later stages of an investigation, or even in a court of law. The opposition’s case is strengthened when there is evidence an internal investigator has not done their due-diligence.
Corporations of all sizes, trades, and levels of notoriety experience crises throughout their history. When disaster strikes and the stakes are high, it’s important to retain the services of a qualified, licensed, private investigator to begin an investigation. It’s not uncommon for a private investigator to be hired on after internal investigators have already made an attempt. It’s best to start strong, with due-diligent service from a seasoned external investigator to lay an impenetrable foundation for a thorough investigation.