Preparing for an internal investigation of criminal charges

When a company faces charges of a crime such as fraud, stakeholders typically conduct an internal investigation of these allegations. Employers must preserve the legal rights of employees during this process.

This guide can help individuals in this situation prepare for an internal white collar crime investigation at work.

Types of internal investigations

Usually, an internal investigation arises because of major claims against an employee or the company at large. Examples of accusations that typically warrant this type of investigation include:

  • Sexual harassment by C-suite or other high-level officials
  • Fraud involving company assets
  • Clusters of unlawful behavior
  • Systematic consumer fraud

The status of the accused person also determines the need for an investigation. For example, human resources will more likely conduct a full analysis about accusations against an executive than a lower-level assistant.

Reasons for internal investigations

The company decides to complete an internal investigation when allegations can potentially affect the firm’s reputation, cost shareholders and investors money, and result in legal liability. These investigations can also improve processes to prevent future allegations of criminal actions.

Employees who face an internal investigation should expect to receive respectful, confidential treatment. The company should inform the employee in question about his or her right to legal representation, particularly during any formal proceedings, and document all aspects of the process in writing.

Investigators must remain completely neutral and firms must consider fairness when conducting interviews. For example, an internal investigation can result in a discrimination lawsuit if an employee can prove that his or her protected class, such as disability, race or gender, resulted in the investigation.