The purpose of an investigation is to gather the evidence so that there can be a resolution to the complaint. There is also a good chance that someday attorneys or a jury outside the company may check every aspect of the investigation you do. For instance, your company may have to hand over to outside lawyers the details of the investigation, and the investigator may have to account for the conversation they had concerning the investigation.
This is the reason why you need to hire an experienced corporate intelligence lawyer to conduct the investigation. The investigator needs to plan an investigation to make sure that the information is complete and accurate. This article discusses how to conduct a successful corporate intelligence investigation.
Minimize witness intimidation
Every investigator needs to think about how to do a proper investigation, so they need to understand that some witnesses to the corporate investigation may feel intimidated by the alleged offender. Even the presence of the wrongdoer in the workplace can be intimidating to certain witnesses. Worse still, the alleged offender or complainant can intimidate, retaliate, or harass the witness to try to influence the results of the investigation.
In such cases, it’s a good idea to remove the complainant, alleged offender, or both so that you can improve the information you get from the witnesses. But removing a staff member from the workplace while an investigation is on-going can be a serious human resource issue.
Therefore, if the investigator thinks that removing an employee from their workplace is important to avoid intimidation, then the investigator needs to consult with the right people to agree on such an action.
Form an investigative team
Interviews usually take a huge part of the investigation, so it can be a serious mistake to do important interviews one-on-one. You see, if the investigation is legally challenged, then the wrongdoer can contest the accuracy of the investigator’s recollection of the interview. If your company has more than one person to interview who has the same recollections, it can be harder for the offender to challenge the credibility of the investigation.
Besides, it is also hard to ask crucial questions, understand the right answers, create follow-up questions, and take the right notes simultaneously. The best way is to have at least two interviewers, meaning one interviewer can be asking questions while the other can be taking notes.
The one taking notes can sometimes be asking follow-up questions that the other may have missed. This sharing of responsibilities needs to be consistent during the interview process. The good thing is that two interviewers can also offer you various perspectives on the situation at hand.
Most difficult investigations may need tough credibility conclusions and it can be valuable to know. For example, with two interviewers who have different perspectives on the witness’s credibility, you can get a tough judgment.
Establish the duration for the investigation
Quite often, a company can avoid liability for the mistakes done by the staff and supervisory staff if the management takes an immediate and right action to resolve the situation. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to do the investigation immediately after knowing the issue.
You need to convince all the stakeholders of the need to do an investigation and resolve the problem quickly. Also, you must get the cooperation required to have the interviewees available. Keep in mind that if the investigation gets more complicated than expected, delays can happen. So you may need to extend the deadline so that you can conduct a complete investigation.
Get relevant documents
In most investigations, there is usually a paper trail that gives you crucial information for the investigation. The documents that the investigator can review may answer some questions. They may also raise some other necessary questions that the investigators can decide to ask and identify people that the investigator may desire to interview.
The documents that a corporate investigator should consider getting include telephone records, personnel files, computerized personnel information, expense account records, appointment calendars, and many more. With respect to most investigations, collecting relevant documents as well as interviewing relevant people can be the full extent of the investigation done.
So the investigators need to review these documents from the company and plan the process of the interview. But there are some situations when you may require special investigative methods beyond the basic interviews. These are considered to be investigative techniques that may have high legal risks. Therefore, you must avoid using these techniques without legal opinion from a corporate investigation attorney.
The truth is that these techniques may need high-level approval before implementing them. These techniques include physical surveillance, internal audit, physical investigation like handwriting, voice analysis, or fingerprint. Others include polygraphs, electronic monitoring, and searches of private or company property. Also, you need to make sure that your employees comply with these requests.
Prepare opening and closing remarks
For each interview, it’s important for the investigator to prepare a set of opening remarks and instructions. Likewise, the investigator also needs to have a set of closing remarks and instructions. This should be part of the interview process that is canned and doesn’t depend on what any specific person says. Hence, there can not be any excuse that someone wasn’t prepared or missed a particular fact.
That said, the investigator also needs to figure out whether or not to give the complainant a confirmatory memorandum. This can be necessary if the complainant gives a verbal complaint. So this memorandum can serve for various purposes, usually it gives the complainant a clear understanding of the expectation that the company has for them during the investigation.
A letter to the complainant must include a statement that confirms the problems raised by the complainant, a list of facts given by the complainant, and a statement identifying the investigators.
Aside from these, it should also include a statement asking for the cooperation and participation of the complainant in the investigation, a statement advising the complainant to discuss the issues further, and the expected duration of the investigation and timing of feedback.