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Conducting internal investigations into wrongdoing

You are well aware of the aspects of your business that increase the risk for allegations of wrongdoing. If your industry is under the control of government restrictions, any hint of impropriety may bring federal investigators swooping down on you.

One important step you can take if you suspect misconduct somewhere in your business is to conduct an internal investigation. This can be a delicate operation, and you will not want to risk the disappearance or destruction of critical evidence. Your goal is to get to the facts while avoiding the spread of rumors or the involvement of the media. Either of these can result in damage to the reputation and credibility of your business, among other consequences.

Preparing for the investigation

The report resulting from an internal investigation may become evidence if the state of Texas or the federal government becomes involved in the case. Therefore, it is critical that you handle the investigation methodically and with care. Your first step is to set your emotions aside and determine whether there is merit to the accusations.

If it is likely misconduct took place, you must gather the appropriate resources and proceed with the investigation using stealth to avoid the destruction of evidence by a panicked employee. This may mean calling on skilled accountants, qualified investigators and experienced computer forensic experts. You may reach out to a legal professional who has those resources at hand.

The steps of an internal investigation

In general, the following steps will be critical to a successful investigation into alleged misconduct in your company:

  • Discreetly gathering personnel files, digital information and evidence from your company server
  • Carefully logging the chain of custody for any potential evidence you handle
  • Completing a background check of those involved to determine if they have additional business ventures or are living an inexplicably lavish lifestyle
  • Conducting nonconfrontational interviews of those who may have knowledge of the misconduct
  • Using the information you have gathered to interview those accused of wrongdoing

It is important to carefully plan your interviews, having your questions written down sequentially and based on the evidence. Your attorney can be of special assistance with this part of the investigation. If you suspect more than one employee of wrongdoing, it is smart to interview them simultaneously to prevent them from comparing answers. If you plan to terminate the employee, have that process in motion prior to the interview.

It is possible you will have enough evidence to turn the case over to authorities who will conduct the interviews. At minimum, your report will allow you to review your policies and make improvements to prevent future misconduct.

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If you or your company is under investigation, charged or indicted for federal or state crimes, or you want to ensure future compliance, contact Hilder & Associates, P.C., for more information or to schedule an appointment with an experienced Houston white collar criminal defense lawyer.

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