When it comes to finding the truth in a corporate lawsuit investigation, attorneys might want to consider a private investigator to supplement their fact-finding. COVID-19 prevention and social distancing are continuing to affect the way employees and consumers imagine the workplace landscape. With many business-to-consumer operations remaining limited or shut down completely, more leadership and employees are finding the mental space to consider their jobs and the corporate culture of the companies they serve. This has led to a new wave of calls for accountability when it comes to toxic corporate culture and how it effects employees. This means more litigation between employer and employee over issues such as discrimination, harassment, nepotism, and hostile work environments. With many corporate attorneys facing a higher caseload, they have been searching for ways to mitigate the footwork involved with quality, comprehensive investigations.
Private investigators are the perfect multi-tool for attorneys looking to lighten the load while they focus on caselaw. Many attorneys use private investigators for precisely this reason, as their diverse experience gives them valuable insight into many types of investigations, including fraud, non-compete violations, violence and threat assessments, and white-collar crime. Such diverse experience means that private investigators are less likely to leave a lead unexplored, giving the investigation the full benefit of comprehension and transparency.
Private investigators have access to verified databases comparable to that of law enforcement to get the best cross-referenced intelligence on relevant subjects in a corporate lawsuit. Private investigators have access to the most intimate details of a person’s life and contextualize those details in the framework of the lawsuit. This intelligence is not limited to the opposition, however. Attorneys rely on a degree of trust in their contract with their client—meaning that the client is transparent with the attorney so they can anticipate factors that might complicate the lawsuit. Private investigators can run background checks on the client and persons related to them and attorneys can prepare for any unpleasant surprises lurking around the corner.
The same due diligence that private investigators apply to background checks can be applied to witness location and rapport. Attorneys can often find themselves at a loss because a crucial witness cannot be located to assist in the court proceedings. When attorneys utilize a private investigator for their corporate lawsuit investigation, they have access to comprehensive witness location services. Private investigators view background checks, identify individuals close to the witness, interview them, and develop a strategy for locating and contacting that witness. No attorney wants to subpoena a crucial witness, and sometimes it takes the Because private investigators are independent, have no powers of arrest, and no dog in the fight, witnesses in a corporate lawsuit investigation might be more willing to open up to them about relevant facts in the case.
Hiring a private investigator for corporate lawsuit investigation may seem counterintuitive. One of the greatest advantages of conducting an internal investigation is just that—it’s internal. Internal investigations allow the corporation to keep vital intelligence in-house and those stakes are often never higher than when a legal judgement is at stake. However, private investigators can deliver the same brand of due-diligence and discretion as any in-house corporate investigator.
When facing the judgement of a civil court, facts in evidence are often called into question and subjected to a high degree of scrutiny on behalf of the court. Attorneys must do their best to mitigate this scrutiny by providing mountains of documentation and full transparency to the court. Internal investigators are typically employed directly by the corporation or nonprofit, rather than contracted for their services. This means that they have an indirect stake in the outcome of that investigation, and their findings might be called into question by the court.
Even if the corporation’s legal representation is in-house, that does not mean the investigator must be. Because a private investigator is typically independent of any corporation or law firm, their findings are viewed as more objective by civil courts. In a corporate lawsuit investigation, corporate attorneys can reap the benefits of placing a private investigator on the case and then having them serve as an expert witness to the court, because their independence from implicit bias adds another layer of integrity to their testimony.
If you’re an attorney in search of a private investigator for your corporate lawsuit investigation, consider Lauth Investigations International as your multi-tool. Our private investigators are comprised of former military and law enforcement personnel with seasoned experience in intelligence-gathering operations. We provide detailed reports, expert recommendations, and are prepared to give expert testimony in civil court. We regularly received glowing recommendations from former clients and carry an outstanding A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. For more information on our attorney support services, please visit us online at lauthinvestigations.com.
Corporations and institutions with relative high visibility have a lot to lose when internal misconduct is exposed. If you are an institution, such as a school, prison, or government body, internal misconduct can strongly shake the public’s confidence in how that misconduct will impact the groups and communities being served. Embarrassing, pervasive issues, such as a business party culture, can really drive down faith in your brand. If you’re a large corporate chain, such as Walmart, or McDonald’s, your corporate culture is subject to criticism from current/past employees, with heavy emphasis on how that corporate culture effects both productivity and the workforce.
Just one week after ringing in the new year, McDonald’s current CEO, Chris Kempczinski, has announced that he plans to bring an end to the business party culture embroiled in their corporate atmosphere. According to The Wall Street Journal, Kempczinski, “…is seeking to restore a more professional culture at McDonald’s after what some current and former employees described as an environment influenced by his predecessor’s late-night socializing with some executives and staffers at bars and flirtations with female employees…” This business party culture was pervasive. His predecessor, Steve Eastbrook, was terminated in November of 2019 after he confessed to having a relationship with an employee. What is particularly problematic about these circumstances is that healthy corporate culture begins with leadership. When leadership behaves ethically within the organization, employees are more likely to follow that example. When executives, managers, and supervisors are not held accountable for bad behavior, it sends a message to the rest of the organization that poisons the well of corporate culture.
But inappropriate personal conduct is not the only challenge
currently facing McDonald’s culture. Strains imposed by the franchises’
renovation program has franchisees challenging their relationship with the
corporation. In addition, unions are still reeling from a decision handed down
by a national union-organizing supervision board, which states that the
corporation will no longer be liable for labor violations committed by its
franchisees. Labor advocates who made their concerns apparent to the board were
ignored, and the decision came down with a 2-1 vote. In the background,
employees continue their cause of “Fight For 15,” in reference to their desire
to have McDonald’s starting wage raised to $15 per hour.
Kempczinski’s promise to diffuse a business party culture within the corporation is a promising start—however, in order to make meaningful changes to the corporation, there needs to be a top-to-bottom evaluation of internal processes, and of the behavior exhibited by leadership—both in the public view and behind closed doors. That is why so many institutions and corporations are subjecting their internal operations to a corporate culture audit to ensure that they won’t be caught unawares about the debilitating, pervasive issues within their organization. Regardless of quality, corporate culture moves in a cycle. The actions of leadership filter down through the workforce, influencing productivity and engagement from employees. Employees either contribute positively or negatively to the corporation as a result of that leadership, and that leads directly back to leadership in a supervisory capacity. For the sake of a long-beloved American corporation, let’s hope that Kempczinski follows through on his promise for change.
When growing a business, executives and owners have to go the extra mile when it comes to protecting trade secrets. In the pursuit of their company’s business, a common practice for corporations of all sizes is implementing non-compete clauses in their employees’ contracts. This ensures, should an employee leave the company for any reason, they cannot utilize trade secrets for the purpose of building a similar business of their own. It’s in a business owner’s best interest to be preemptive in protecting themselves from client poaching, theft of company secrets, and possibly even slander when it comes to current and former employees who violate their non-compete agreements.
Though they go by several names and the laws concerning them vary state to state, non-compete agreements are generally a legally-binding contract between an employer and an employee, whereupon acceptance of a job offer by a company, an individual agrees during their employment and following their termination they will not enter into any competing business for a predetermined period of time. Whether it’s working for a company’s top competitor, or striking out in their own business, non-compete agreements protect trade secrets, sensitive company information, and prevent competing businesses from poaching successful employees with promises of a handsome pay-raise in exchange for the expertise they might have gleaned from their time at their previous position. This kind of information can range from client bases to business operations to future products and services. The duration of the non-compete agreement following an employee’s termination have to be well within reason, as no employer can permanently preclude a former employee from any line of work.
Not every company experiences difficulties by virtue of a former employee violating their non-compete agreement, and some companies do not see the need for non-compete agreements at all, but the consequences of trade secrets being used to steal a company’s business can have devastating effects, ending in the worst possible circumstances with a business closing and an owner in debt. Even if a company is able to quash a non-compete violation in court, the cost to the company in legal fees can be astronomical, especially for smaller businesses. That’s why it’s important for owners and executives to be preemptive and proactive when it comes to potential violators. Luckily, a private investigator can help at all stages of a non-compete violation investigation.
Human resource employees are the salt of the earth, and can have a great influence on how a company develops based on the individuals they select for their workforce. However, human resource employees are not lie detectors, and do not always have access to legitimate, comprehensive background screening tools. Background screenings and checks are among the most common service associated with private investigators. If there is something suspect in a candidate’s past, licensed private investigators have the tools and experience to find it out. Private investigators can pull a candidate’s criminal history, financial history, and interview persons in their lives who can speak to character and work ethic. They can also spot patterns in a person’s work history or lifestyle that could be high-risk factors in a hypothetical non-compete violation—things like transience, long periods between positions, or financial destitution.
Some malingering employees can’t wait to be terminated before violating their non-compete agreements. It’s not uncommon for these individuals to exploit trade secrets for their businesses own gain while on company time and dime. While on a business trip, an individual might use company per diem to buy drinks for a person who could be a potential investor in their new business. Employees might use company supplies to supplement their project, such as printers, fax machines, computers, and other equipment. Private investigators can conduct diligent investigations within a company’s workforce to root out the source of the theft. Private investigators can interview witnesses, including upper management and other staff, review vital documents like bank records, and conduct surveillance of the company’s operations as needed to expose the perpetrator. Their objectivity makes them an ideal candidate to conduct such an investigation because they do not have a stake in the outcome.
There are many circumstances under which a business owner might come to suspect a former employee has violated their non-compete agreement. Word might have traveled through business circles that a similar business is starting up. Employees might start disappearing in clusters. Clients may suddenly decide to sever business ties in favor of a new contender in the competition. Whatever transpires, one thing is certain—documenting and exposing this exploitation is imperative, because the consequences can be costly. Retaining a qualified private investigator who specializes in corporate crises is crucial to resolving non-compete violations quickly, before the exponential costs begin to erode profits. Private investigators can perform surveillance on suspected former employees to document their movements, record with whom they met, and collect evidence such as pictures of a brick and mortar establishment, marketing materials, vital documents, and filings with the Secretary of State. Private investigators can send undercover operatives to infiltrate a workforce to get information the business privy only to employees. They can also enlist the aid of a confidential informant—an individual already within the company to provide information. This requires quality interviewing skills and developing a natural rapport with potential witnesses, both important qualities in a qualified investigator.
When non-compete violations are at their ugliest, not only do violators seek to siphon off their former employer’s business by exploiting trade secrets and knowledge of their operations, but they can also play dirty by exposing this information publicly. Another method involves deliberately spreading lies about the competition in order to drive business towards the former employee’s company. That’s known as slander and it’s legally actionable. Documenting the perpetuation of these lies and proving they are in fact false are crucial in these cases. Diligent fact-finding is the cornerstone of any private investigator’s expertise. Private investigators can conduct cyber investigations to track down the users behind profiles that post false negative reviews, follow rumors back to their roots, and forensically track how information left the competition and made its way into the former employee’s business nucleus. They can implement many of the strategies aforementioned: surveillance, interviewing witnesses, documenting evidence. Slander cases tend to have a divisive they-said, they-said narrative, which is where a private investigator’s objectivity becomes invaluable once more. Private investigators have no stake in the solution of an investigation. Their independence coupled with their expertise and resume make them spectacular witnesses in any subsequent litigation.
When a company has a non-compete agreement in place, it’s important that executives and owners are proactive when performing a risk assessment on a potential employee. It’s important that a healthy company culture fosters good comradery, honesty, and a policy of “if you see something, say something.” Building a case against a former employee who violated their agreement can be time consuming at the expense of company resources. Dealing with the fallout from litigation can bring a reliable business to its knees. Private investigators can assist in all phases of any non-compete agreement violation, and retaining their services will go a long way towards a body of objective evidence and testimony that can resolve a company’s crisis.
If you have suspicions that a current or former employee has violated their non-compete agreement, contact Lauth Investigations International today for a free consultation on how we can help you! Call 317-955-1100 or find us online at www.lauthinvestigations.com.
Carie McMichael is the Media and Communication Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. She regularly writes on investigations, missing person, and other topics in the criminal justice system.