A private investigator can identify employee fraud and thief in your workforce, eliminating future threats while maintaining objectivity.
Despite the ability of a business to flourish in any economy, every company is still vulnerable to the possibility of employee theft or fraud. Like a frog in a boiling pot, sometimes companies can be taken by surprise when the theft has gradually grown over a period of time, and no one is the wiser until the business takes an unexpected financial hit. Companies can protect themselves from these frauds with costly in-house investigations into the crime, but a private investigator can go a long way towards identifying all perpetrators, no matter how high up the chain of command it goes.
Recent statistics from several government agencies who supervise finances and labor estimate theft committed annually by employees reaches an excess of $50 billion. Even an isolated incident can blanket a company in a crisis and leave them clawing out of the depths of bankruptcy. It starts with small things, such as taking office supplies for personal use. When this action goes unchecked, the employee might begin taking from petty cash without authorization. The level of the theft will always ratchet up the longer the thief goes undetected.
When an investigator attempts to identify employee fraud is knowing what to look for. Elliot Rysenbry of Trustify says there are six warning signs of employee theft for which Human Resources should be vigilant.
Behaviors of people who might be very dedicated to their jobs are also characteristic of people who might be stealing from your business. People who are always working long hours and never take a vacation. This “dedication” is a front for superiors. People who are stealing via their position do not want to be absent from the workplace for fear a temporary replacement might notice inconsistencies that could indicate fraud.
Hyper-vigilance of connections
When an employee has a close personal connection/relationship with any vendor or associated financial institution, it’s usually not cause for concern of impropriety. However, hyper-vigilance or strong protection of those relationships, it’s possible there’s something in the business arrangement for this employee. One of the most common names for this kind of fraudulent arrangement is “kickbacks” or getting a cut of the profits vendors or financial institutions receive from a thieving employee.
This is one of the most common types of theft committed in the workplace. Line items on expense reports are either inflated or fabricated entirely in order to pad the thief’s pocket.
Payroll knows what individual employees make week to week, so when there are unexplained extravagences in an employee’s life, such as a flashy new car, it’s important HR keep an eye on said employee.
Frequent small transactions
Taking from petty cash in small amounts can add up quickly, and is often a sign of more serious, larger-scale fraud being committed within the company.
Employees who feel as though they are underpaid or undervalued at their company are also plausible perpetrators of theft. Whether as a motive or a rationalization, they feel as if what they stole was deserved payment.
While theft can be an extremely toxic element in any work environment, one of the ways to exacerbate it is by conducting a poor internal investigation. Human Resource employees are unsung heroes of companies and businesses, as they are one of the crucial gatekeepers with control over the quality of employees. Not only are they very busy individuals, but they might not be the most objective persons to conduct an internal investigation.
Sometimes a lack of experience with investigations will cause a member of HR to make false or unprepared accusations about the guilt of a particular employee. If this employee is unimpeachable, the company can open itself up to lawsuits and bad press. Even if HR is not conducting the investigation, most employees are not trained investigators and might conduct an inquiry in an illegal manner that could also open the business up to litigation. Sometimes a pay cut for an employee suspected of stealing might seem like a quick and quiet way to resolve these issues, but legal counsel should always be consulted before making these decisions. By the same token, hasty termination of these employees to avoid a messy investigation should always involve the opinion of a legal expert—all in the name of protecting the country from plausible legal trouble.
The simple answer to avoiding all of the aforementioned ways to inflame an internal theft investigation is to retain the services of a private investigator. Private investigators can save companies from themselves in terms of opening themselves up to litigation or bad press. Private investigators have more skill and experience in these areas preventing investigations from blowing up in a negative manner. They are independent contractors, therefore, do not have a dog in the race when it comes to identifying the culprit of the theft. Their objectivity will be crucial, especially if the theft within the company goes all the way to the executive level. Because of their authority over employees, CEOs of companies might often get a soft front from HR or other investigative bodies within the business. Private investigators—being unknown to other employees in the business—can also conduct undercover operations to yield truthful and unbiased results. The private investigator, along with business counsel, can also advise Human Resource departments how to proceed once the culprit has been identified. Whatever the specific needs of a company, always consider hiring a private investigator to conduct internal investigations in order to protect and enhance the longevity of your business.
Identify employee fraud and theft today with Lauth Investigations International. Call 317-951-1100 or visit us online at our website for a free quote.
If you follow the mission and directives of nonprofit organizations, you’ve likely heard of United Way Worldwide. According to their website, the nonprofit “advances the common good in communities across the world. Our focus is on education, income and health—the building blocks for a good quality of life.” However noble their mission statement, United Way has been in the news recently as former employees have come forward with reports of a hostile work environment, prompting an internal investigation.
The United Way investigation began when former employers decided to take a stand against a toxic corporate culture. The allegations of a toxic, hostile work environment came in the form of a letter that was signed by an anonymous group of former United Way of Summit and Media, citing pervasive problems such as racism, sexual harassment, and nepotism. While the word “anonymous” raises eyebrows in conjunction with whistle-blowing, it bears pointing out that these former employees claim they will be subject to retaliation. The letter was sent to United Way board members on July 31, prompting board chairman Mark Krohn to announce the onset of an internal investigation.
Harassment and bullying are just one of the allegations made by the former employees who signed this letter, and this has led to one United Way board member already resigning. One of the first dominoes to fall in the United Way investigation was former board member Elizabeth Bartz, who was in charge of running government affairs in Akron, Ohio. Leadership from the United Way of Summit and Media began investigating Bartz after there were allegations that she had verbally abused employees on social media. Bartz used Facebook Messenger to send a private message to another former employee, calling them a “toothless piranha” and accusing them of attempting “to ruin UW” with their allegations of bullying in harassment—ironically by engaging in bullying and harassment. This led to Bartz’s resignation.
Bartz’s reaction to the anonymous letter might actually validate these anonymous claims by former United Way employees. However, according to an article by the Beacon Journal, these anonymous former employees are feeling ignored after an investigator reported that the allegations in the letter “were mostly unsubstantiated.” A former employee who claimed to speak for the group told the Beacon Journal, “It’s clear it’s not an objective report…We can’t keep talking if we’re not going to be valued and our experiences are going to be diminished. It’s pretty disheartening when someone says they were sexually harassed and they are told it was ‘he said/she said.”
The frustration and feeling of defeat expressed by these anonymous employees are the effects of poor corporate culture in motion. Like a piece of antique furniture with termites, poor corporate culture can rot a company from within. Looking at the list of grievances these former employees are citing—racism, sexual harassment, nepotism—these are all enormous and complex problems that are not created in a vacuum. The corporate culture of the workplace must be an environment where these issues are able to thrive in order to develop a pattern of behavior. When employees make claims about these types of internal issues, it is in the best interest of the corporation to submit to an independent corporate culture audit.
If your corporation or organization is experiencing repeated instances of internal difficulty, it might be time for a corporate culture audit. A corporate culture audit is a program that examines the internal policies of a corporation or organization, how those policies are enforced, how they effect the employees, and how those employees relate to each other as a result. If the corporate culture in a company is good, that positivity is baked into the internal operations, employees feel valued by their organization, and therefore will remain engaged and invested in maintaining productivity. Pervasive, repeated internal problems may not stem from a single factor, but the entire corporate culture of the workplace. Think of a corporate culture audit like a medical check-up for a business or organization. Lauth’s investigators evaluate the culture from leadership down, identifying the major factors in disruption, and advise leadership on how to improve their business from within. For more information on our corporate culture audit program, click here.
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
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
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
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
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
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.