Corporate Internal Investigations: Building a smart investigation team

by | May 23, 2016


Internal investigations are always sensitive and are frequently high-stakes matters that must be handled with great caution. Some of these corporate investigations are public and in the headlines, others are private and do not result in public disclosure.

Many leading law firms and their corporate clients have learned valuable lessons about how to conduct effective corporate internal investigations related to matters such as whistleblower allegations, corporate hotline complaints and internal audit reports of wrongdoing. We’ve collected some of these valuable insights and are sharing them in a four-part series of blog posts.

In Part One of our series, we addressed the importance of establishing a smart investigation strategy. Today, in part two, we’ll explore how to build a smart investigation team.

The decision about who should conduct the investigation is of crucial importance. The first consideration is whether an internal team or an external team should handle the investigation. Experts note that an internal team will be equipped to coordinate a wider range of issues across the company and better able to maintain control of an investigation, but they may not be viewed as objective and may lack substantial experience in conducting investigations. An external team will be more insulated from pressure and perhaps have a clearer attorney-client privilege assertion, but they may lack the deep subject matter expertise and perspective on how various pieces connect to others in the corporate environment.

We surveyed a number of experts and reviewed insights from various sources to identify the key characteristics that you want to make sure are present in each member of the team:

  • Impartiality and fairness
  • Analytical ability
  • Empathy and perceptivity
  • Integrity and courage
  • Persistence and determination
  • Patience and common sense

Regardless of whether an organization decides to deploy an internal team or an external team to head up the investigation, you’ll want to have a good mix of internal and external resources brought to bear. For example, in-house resources might include the input of professionals from legal, internal audit, security, human resources, compliance and/or risk management. External resources might include outside counsel, accountants, security consultants, digital forensics examiners and other specialized investigators.

“The goal of a corporate internal investigation should be to uncover the truth about alleged misconduct within the organization, and that bold mission can only be achieved with good planning and consistent execution,” said Steve Ashbacher, vice president of litigation solutions with the LexisNexis software and technology business. “A carefully constructed team of professionals – whether it’s internal or external – is essential to the success of the investigation.”

For the next post in this series, we’ll examine the importance of conducting smart investigation interviews.

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This post is by Daryn Teague, who provides support to the litigation software product line based in the LexisNexis Raleigh Technology Center.

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