Magnifying glass on paper cut out figuresWhen allegations of misconduct are raised, an internal investigation can help you to decide if you should dismiss certain individuals, recover any assets lost, or prepare for civil or criminal litigation.

At Blackhawk Intelligence, our corporate investigators who oversee workplace internal investigations often discuss with our clients in length about how employees have become one of the most underestimated threats to businesses across the UK.

Complaints of workplace misconduct – anything from sexual harassment, financial fraud, potential violations of statutory law, compliance concerns to other violations of corporate policy – continue to take place as we speak, prompting business leaders and company directors to ask our internal investigators what can be done? More specifically, how can one effectively address potential legal risks associated with damaging allegations brought against your fellow colleagues? It is with this in mind that we decided to explain internal investigation in this article.

The main types of insider threats

Whenever a client calls up our corporate investigators, chances are, they have an employee who has exercised some basic misjudgement, an employee who is negligent, and/or a malicious insider who has caused serious harm to the company and/or fellow colleagues.

An employee with basic misjudgement may inadvertently click on malicious links in emails (which allow malware to be downloaded), leave a USB stick with sensitive data in public places, or make sexual jokes to fellow colleagues. They may also openly bully or discriminate other team members.

An employee who is negligent may ignore safety warnings or fail to exercise a duty of care.

A malicious insider is often motivated by self-interest or they may simply believe that they are doing greater good for others. For example, they steal sensitive data to sell and make a personal gain, or they leak sensitive data to the press in the hope that it will set off a series of events.

Whatever the issues, when an allegation is made against someone in the workplace, it is likely to have far-reaching consequences. This is why the company involved needs to ensure that the internal investigation process is transparent, unbias, and without conflicts of interest. As a result, many companies often turn to independent corporate investigators like us to assist.

Typical areas of internal corporate investigations

The decision to launch an internal workplace investigation is never an easy one to make, but if fraud, theft, sexual harassment, inappropriate use of company resources, discrimination and/or misconduct has taken place, then you should launch an investigation as soon as possible. At Blackhawk Intelligence, our investigators are made up of forensic accountants, legal councils and specialists in enforcement and regulation. Consequently, we tend to handle cases relating to financial fraud, data theft, as well as regulatory compliance.

Let’s discuss a few of our common cases in detail.

Accounting fraud is a major internal threat to businesses, and by the time a company director realises that fraud has been committed, it is often too late. Accounting fraud often comes in one or a combination of the following forms:

  • Misusing funds o misappropriation of assets
  • Payroll fraud
  • Overstating revenues or assets
  • Misrepresenting expenses or liabilities
  • Bribery and corruption

A large number of accounting fraud cases we handle are full of twist and turns – they are not straightforward because the culprits have purposefully concealed information or used red herring to divert attention. This is why our corporate investigators are methodical. We adhere to strict guidelines and procedures to ensure that the information discovered can be used in court as evidence to convict the perpetrator.

Referring to an illegal transfer or storage of any confidential information, data theft is fast becoming the number one threat faced by businesses that handle large volumes of customer data on a regular basis. The term ‘data’ can include personal detail, software codes, passwords, technologies and algorithms. Our top IT forensic team works hand-in-hand with our corporate investigators in data theft cases. We can also help companies implement the appropriate procedures to combat cybercriminals and rogue employees in the future.

The moment you become aware that the media or the regulators have been gathering information about compliance issues within your company, you need to be proactive and act fast. Engaging an independent specialist team to launch an investigation on behalf of your business is the best first step. This action will demonstrate to the media, regulators, enforcement agencies and the public that you are taking their alleged discoveries seriously and your business is diligently seeking to uncover all the facts while implementing remedies to prevent any further damage.

Internal investigation process

When something has happened and company directors have decided that an internal investigation should be taking place, the following events usually unfold.

  1. A senior member, usually a legal counsel or an HR director will determine if the investigation should be handled by an employee or outsource to an independent corporate investigator.
  2. In order to avoid conflict of interest, hiring an independent corporate investigator is often preferred. Only hire from a reputable firm with a list of clientele that is verifiable.
  3. The investigators should possess the following qualities: have the knowledge and experience to handle the case, have access to the necessary tools, professional and highly discreet. Maintaining confidentiality is critical to the integrity of any investigation.
  4. The investigation process should be documented. Care should be exercised when witnesses are being interviewed.
  5. Findings should be presented to the parties involved in a timely manner. Recommendations should be impartial.
  6. The final report will help you to decide if you should dismiss certain individuals from the company, recover any assets lost, or prepare for civil or criminal litigation.
  7. Improve your internal process so that a similar event will not happen again.

Blackhawk Intelligence can help with corporate investigations

With years of experience in dealing with internal investigations within businesses of all sizes and sectors, Blackhawk Intelligence’s corporate investigators are experts you can count on. Give us a call today on +44 (0)20 8108 9317 if you need an independent and trusted specialist.

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This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances.