The Importance of Fact-Finding

The Importance of Fact-Finding

fact-findingEven 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.  


How Social Media Can Get People Fired

Jack E. Sandline, an Indiana Senator and owner of private investigation firm Jack Sandline and Associates, shared a post on Facebook mocking the women who participated in the  post inauguration Women’s March as being fat and unmotivated. Sandlin shared a picture of the march which read: “In one day, Trump got more fat women out walking, than Michelle Obama did in 8 years.”

The post was quickly deleted, but it was too late. People had already taken screenshots of the post and it began spreading like wildfire. After the post was deleted, a second post appeared on Sandlin’s Facebook wall apologizing, but it was also deleted shortly after. Sandlin told the Indy Star he didn’t make either post, but he allow the possibility that he, “…could have hit something.”

Social media is a powerful tool. It can connect you with your audience directly to strengthen your brand. It can also destroy all of your hard work if you post the wrong thing. Here’s a few times people’s social media posts got them into hot water.


Saturday Night Live Writer is Suspended for Barron Trump Tweet

It’s no secret that Saturday Night Live and Donald Trump have an adversarial relationship. Alec Baldwin has been portraying Trump in less than flattering ways ever since Trump announced he was running for president. While SNL has a history of lampooning anyone and everyone, even they had to draw the line when one of their writers tweeted about Trump’s youngest son, Barron.

On the day of Trump’s inauguration, SNL writer Katie Rich published a tweet that said, “Barron will be this country’s first homeschool shooter.” The reaction across social media was swift and strong in its condemnation of the tweet. People were outraged Rich targeted a child with an insult.

Rich deleted the tweet and even deactivated her Twitter account after the backlash, but it was too late. Executives quickly suspended her for indefinite amount of time for the tweet. Rich’s name was removed from the credits of the following show.


Justine Sacco Caused a Social Media Meltdown and had no Idea

Justine Sacco was the director of corporate communications at IAC when she caused a social media meltdown. Sacco was sitting on a plane waiting to take off for Africa when she tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Sacco’s flight took off shortly after the tweet was sent.

Sacco didn’t have internet access as she flew and had no idea her tweet was causing the uproar it did. With only 170 followers, it’s unlikely Sacco expected any significant response to her tweet. Unfortunately social media is unpredictable and it’s difficult to know what will and won’t blow up. By the time Sacco’s plane landed, there were numerous blogs calling her a racist and she had lost her job.


PacketSled CEO Resigns after Tweeting Death Threat to Trump

In case you thought only lower level employees would lose their jobs over social media posts, Matt Harrigan is here to prove you wrong. Harrigan was the CEO and President of PacketSled, a network security company before resigning due to some ill advised social media posts.

In multiple posts across his Twitter and Facebook pages, Harrigan wrote about wanting to personally kill Donald Trump.


Twitter and Facebook accounts tied to Matthew Harrigan, the President & CEO of PacketSled, included comments threatening Trump Sunday afternoon, according to an NBC 7 source.

“I’m going to kill the president. Elect,” was one of the posts on Harrigan’s Twitter account. It was followed by the comment, “Bring it secret service.”

“…getting a sniper rifle and perching myself where it counts,” reads a post to Harrigan’s Facebook account. “Find a bedroom in the whitehouse [sic] that suits you motherf—er. I’ll find you.”


After Harris’s social media posts began to garner attention, he tendered his resignation to the PacketSled board of directors who quickly accepted. As if losing his job wasn’t bad enough, his comments were also reported to the Secret Service. Harris did apologize for his comments, but it was too late.


David Schroeder, Blog Writer, Lauth Investigations International