Choosing Independent Corporate Investigators

Two female investigators at computer

Sometimes in business, issues often arise which require timely, discreet, and often complex enquiries to provide answers and peace of mind or reassurances to stakeholders.

Large corporations may have internal risk management and compliance, or human resources function supported by legal counsel to take care of any potential misconduct or wrongdoing, but is that always the right route to take? Smaller enterprises don’t have the luxury of a wraparound team of lawyers and investigators, but to them, the stakes are equally as high and the potential for reputational damage is as real. They therefore would need to find an external supplier of such services, often at short notice. But how do you begin to sift through the many providers out there claiming to be competent and professional in a mainly unregulated industry?

Do I need an independent investigator?  

A critical decision when considering the need for an internal investigation and prior to any action, is whether it can be carried out by internal staff, or is the problem so serious that a court case can be foreseen, and it requires an objective view and the gathering of admissible evidence? How would it look to stakeholders should it be suggested that a failed investigation was due to the lack of impartiality in the process, or merely due to a reluctance to spend?

Having considered the costs to be worthwhile, are you prepared to accept that the independent investigation team may find failings in your company’s processes and procedures?

Whether the issue in question is around insider threat, criminality, a whistleblowing instigated enquiry, or any other form of potential misconduct, decision-makers need to act quickly to understand the facts surrounding the case. Engaging an independent team can be costly and such an action is likely to create some disruption. However, it remains the most effective way for responsible companies to learn lessons, inform policy and procedural review, prevent future incidents, and remain compliant.

What services can investigators provide?

There are many companies and credible individuals providing what they describe as investigation services and their credentials can seem impressive. Some lead with the headlines around the provision of surveillance services and tracking devices, or online ‘investigation’; eye-catching stuff, but will it contribute to your investigation plan and provide the information you need? There is a vast difference between investigation, and analysis, and intelligence gathering, which can inform an investigation. They may be useful tools in the investigator’s armoury, but the methods and information gathered should feature on disclosure documents and where improperly or unlawfully conducted, they could bring adverse comment in a court and in-turn cause damage to your brand reputation. It is worth noting that intelligence services may be all that is required however, even then, they should be deployed where necessary and proportionate to do so. Choose wisely!

A professional and credible investigation team will suggest the various options available to meet objectives, but a more rounded approach should be taken during important cases such as fraud, corruption, director misconduct in insolvency cases, to name but a few. It may be that your company will seek to bring a private prosecution for example, and a full evidential package is required. In such cases, it is essential to ensure that the evidence is gathered lawfully, and submissions are admissible.

Asking if they have access to experts such as financial investigators, various forensic specialists, cyber investigation experts, disclosure officers, and legal experts is entirely reasonable given the potential cost in terms of financial outlay and reputational risk.

A less complex case may still require in-depth investigative knowledge, but it could be dealt with by a small team or individual with experience in corporate investigation. Ask for examples of cases of note they have completed and if possible, references and qualifications for peace of mind.

Engaging with your chosen team

Any professional team, whether you’re hiring a law firm, a risk management company, or private investigators, should first offer a free consultation so you can gauge whether they are the right fit for your company and that they can deal with the matter at hand. Equally, they should also be assessing compatibility and their own capabilities against the objectives.

You may have by this point, discussed confidentiality, and had an agreement signed. Whether vetted or not, this shouldn’t be a problem for any service provider. Dependent upon the elements of the case, requesting a DBS certificate or other credentials may also be appropriate.

Where you can, provide a full overview of the circumstances and your overall objective. This will help your investigators formulate an investigation plan in consultation with any experts or specialist counsel. It will also ensure that from the outset, evidence is gathered appropriately, and the correct documentation is maintained surrounding disclosure.

Conclusion

Taking the decision to involve an outside body in sensitive commercial matters is never easy. There can be a tendency toward an ill-informed choice or accessing the cheapest option, particularly when there is an urgency for action.

Doing your due diligence around investigation and intelligence service providers can help you minimise the potential for adverse publicity in the future and making the right choices can even help bring the case to an early satisfactory conclusion.

 

 

About the Author: Michael George is the Managing Director of Millbank Solutions and Associate Director of Investigations at Crime Prosecutors, a leading supplier of private prosecution services.

enquiries@millbanksolutions.co.uk

 

 

Who would want to be a ‘source’?

Snitch, grass, snout, informant, source. All slang names for what are now widely known in legal terms (thanks to the BBC series Line of Duty) as Covert Human Intelligence Sources, or CHIS. An individual who has come forward or been approached with a view to providing information anonymously, all whilst maintaining a covert relationship with the person who may require the information. They will henceforth be referred to as their Handler.

In the Public Sector, there are many organisations that use CHIS to great effect, the obvious ones being the police and security and intelligence services, but it may surprise people to know that there are hundreds authorised to do so, who do not. This may be because of a lack of funding, experience, or plain fear of handling CHIS’. After all, there are many pitfalls to navigate in what is often a complex and dangerous field.

High-profile incidents where a CHIS has been mishandled or allowed to turn rogue can lead to negative publicity at best. I was reminded shortly before penning this, of a high-profile case where an individual had come forward to provide material that was so enticing and relevant, that the bigger picture was missed. Enter the Court order demanding that the material is handed over, an act which ultimately uncovered the identity of the source and resulted in a jail sentence for them, thus leaving a trail of irreparable reputational damage in their wake for the organisation.

There are numerous reasons why CHIS are only allowed to be cultivated, recruited and ran by highly trained specialists within some public bodies. I have mentioned the potential for organisational damage, but there are others, such as the requirement for a high degree of tradecraft knowledge, the real risk of physical injury to CHIS and Handler, identifying the correct resources required for safe handling, legal issues surrounding the subject matter, ethics and human rights and the handling of rewards where they are expected. It’s not for everyone, even if they think they can do it. Government rules, laws and guidance ensure that each case is audited and there is a multi-step system in place which means that full applications for use and risk assessments are signed off by those in authority to do so before the relationship between CHIS and Handler can even be developed.

What then of the bodies and organisations who run CHIS without any formal training or guidance other than peer to peer support and a bland code of conduct for reference? The immediate role that springs to mind is the journalist, hungry for the story, but perhaps seeks the information without seeing the bigger picture around the source of the information and the implications such an engagement has for those involved. History has shown that the law doesn’t always protect the source or the associated organisations. Given the magnitude of some of the stories which the media report and which are intelligence-led, I was shocked to find that there is little in the way of training and support for investigative journalists in this area. I watched a recent documentary on Amazon, which provides an overview of past high-profile FBI and CIA investigations. In one episode, which outlined the involvement of an American newspaper, the former editor asked the question ‘who would want to be a source?’ and advised the watcher to ‘choose (the journalist) carefully’, going on to explain the lack of training for many in their trade.

Some private companies choose to use CHIS to support internal investigations or to monitor competitors. They too (unless they have recruited former specialists), have no training in the subject and run the risk of legal proceedings against them or reputational damage. Indeed, the disproportionate use of covert tactics by inexperienced or untrained personnel (and I include some investigation contractors), can often find the company in hot water as we have seen in recent months in the banking world. This however is a subject for a whole different article.

In conclusion, there are dangers, difficulties and far-reaching consequences even when all the moons align, when running CHIS. Motivation should be a key consideration, then there should be a full risk assessment and agreement with the CHIS regarding their reporting parameters. From the beginning to the end of the relationship, safety, security and welfare should always be at the forefront of the minds of all those involved. However, for the reasons already outlined, I fear many of the risks are missed or ignored and it is only a matter of time before we see the next adverse headline.

Mike George

 

Michael George is the Managing Director of Millbank Solutions and a former specialist police detective. He is a subject matter expert in covert investigation, including CHIS’.

 

Contact Us

If you would like to discuss the corporate investigation and intelligence services or intelligence training packages provided by Millbank Solutions, contact us via our website here, via email at enquiries@millbanksolutions.co.uk, or by phone on +44 (0)208 191 9979 (London) / +44 (0)191 909 7007 (Durham)

Millbank Solutions collaborates with Trinity Chambers

Millbank Solutions is delighted to announce their collaboration with QCs and Barristers from Trinity Chambers in Newcastle, Teesside and Leeds to form Crime Prosecutors, which provides a full private prosecution service.

Made up of a combination of experienced former senior police investigators and Crown Court prosecution barristers and Q.C.s, Crime Prosecutors’ multidisciplinary approach ensures the pragmatic and cost-effective management of a private prosecution case, including ongoing evaluation as it proceeds.

In most cases, any prosecution can be started under 6(1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. Some cases are better suited to private prosecutions than others. For example, if there are financial assets involved, or there is a need to protect commercial interests or assets and if the criminal act took place in the UK and by perpetrators in the UK.

If you would like further information, take a look at our new Crime Prosecutors website or our page here. We look forward to discussions with companies, organisations or individuals who feel they may have a case and a private prosecution could be an option.

Thanks to all who have put in so much hard work to get this project off the ground and to those who have provided constant support and advice behind the scenes!

Promotion news from the MD

Having had a hugely positive impact on our company in the short time she has been consultant Head of Intelligence, I am delighted to announce that Kat Caudrelier has accepted the permanent post of Director of Intelligence.

Kat will take strategic responsibility not only for the direction of the company but also for our ever-growing portfolio of clients who engage with our intelligence function, ensuring high-quality, professional service delivery. She has already made a massive difference to the company and its capability. Long may this continue!

Even more good news, as this move also sees her company, Translive Global (translation, transcription and interpretation) come into the fold of the Millbank Solutions family, which gives us that added layer of professionalism when providing documents relating to overseas entities (look out for the revamped website coming soon!).

You can read more about Kat and the rest of our senior team members here. https://lnkd.in/dYXVxz9

Congratulations Kat!

Contact Us

If you would like to discuss the services provided by Millbank Solutions, contact us via our website here, via email at enquiries@millbanksolutions.co.uk or by phone on +44 (0)208 191 9979 (London) / +44 (0)191 909 7007 (Durham)

The Rogue Within

Corporate Investigations

Where once as a company, you were easily winning work and stood head and shoulders over your competitors, you are now struggling to understand how other companies are managing to outbid you. Sound familiar? It’s probably the most common scenario that sees us become engaged by companies.

The business world is an extremely competitive one and to succeed you need many ingredients. There is a view that you need a staff that reflects your ambition, containing individuals ruthless enough to meet objectives no matter what obstacles are in their way. Here lies the problem.

Management with that attitude tends to lose sight of what is going on around them. The clamour for the next ‘big win’ blurs the focus and they fail to notice that key individual who has underlying greed, despite being the best in their field. Those same individuals come to notice by executives within other competitor companies with the same drive and determination and thus, the headhunt begins.

What then plays out is effectively exploitation that sees the competitor receive information as to what may be being bid or intended by their adversaries. Contract won! This is just one example of how easily an individual can ruin a company and at the very least, its reputation.

At Millbank Solutions, our international corporate investigations team have witnessed the devastation the insider threat causes within multi-national companies, but also smaller enterprises who are ill-equipped to suffer such financial losses.

We utilise many years of experience to identify the who, what, why, where, when and how to bring you peace of mind and to enable swift recovery.

Contact Us

If you would like to discuss the services provided by Millbank Solutions, contact us via our website here, via email at enquiries@millbanksolutions.co.uk or by phone on +44 (0)208 191 9979 (London) / +44 (0)191 909 7007 (Durham)