Avoid Dropping the Ball on Internal Investigations

How many times have you watched or read a news story about a company charged for fraud or another type of misconduct and thought to yourself, “that will never happen at my company”?

Posted by Joe Gerard in on April 25th, 2011

How many times have you watched or read a news story about a company charged for fraud or another type of misconduct and thought to yourself, “that will never happen at my company”? Whether you want to believe it or not, misconduct happens and you need to be ready to investigate it. You can’t risk dropping the ball on your next internal investigation – or any investigation for that matter. Here’s some advice on a few of the different ways to make sure you’re “on the ball” when it comes to internal investigations:

1. Confidentiality and Employee Protection

When an employee is brave enough to do the right thing and report misconduct, don’t punish them. At the same time, don’t make it obvious that he/she was the person who reported the misconduct. Some employees will only be willing to cooperate during an investigation if they know that everything they say will remain confidential.

As much as you want to promise them absolute confidentiality, don’t make any promises you can’t keep. In some situations, the best you can do as an investigator is promise that confidentiality will be upheld to the greatest degree. The ability to maintain confidentiality will likely depend on the type of misconduct under investigation and the potential for the case to turn into a lawsuit and make its way to court.

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2. Report ALL of the Facts

You would never present your manager with a half written marketing proposal or sales report would you? The same rules apply to investigations. The Tech Republic article “Three Security Investigation Pitfalls to Avoid,” by Tom Olzak touches on the importance of pursuing all evidence and gathering all of the facts in an investigation:

“Sometimes investigation reports are thrown together without interviewing all parties involved or reviewing all artifacts. This approach frequently results in getting only one side of a story. Since descriptions of what happened often differ due to perception or agenda, it’s important not to fall into the trap of seeing the situation through the eyes of only a small, biased subset of the participants.”

Choose investigators that have no reason to be biased during the investigation. Don’t compromise investigation quality for time.

3. You’re Not Invincible

One of the largest problems in many companies is that they think they are invincible to misconduct and, therefore, don’t have the proper procedures in place to conduct an investigation. As I mentioned earlier, these are the companies that believe misconduct – and potentially, lawsuits, won’t happen to them.

Employees need to know how and where to report incidents. Management, HR, compliance or whichever group you’ve appointed to be in charge of investigations needs to know who is responsible for what and who to report to during and investigation. The chain of command needs to be clearly defined and understood by those involved in order to avoid confusion and wasted time when an investigation in underway. Planning ahead and being prepared to deal with investigations before they happen is one of the easiest ways to spot problems and correct them, to ensure the investigation process runs smoothly.

Joe Gerard
Joe Gerard

CEO, i-Sight

Spend my days showing off the i-Sight investigative case management software and finding ways to help clients improve their investigations. Usually working with corporate security, HR & employee relations, compliance and legal teams.

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