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  • Thomas Smith

Commercial Investigations in a Nutshell

Welcome to the blog! The goal here is to impart some information to non-investigators, potential clients, and the curious about our philosophy, and how corporate investigators work with businesses, attorneys, and the general public to advance their goals and solve problems. If our primary website explains what we do, this blog explains how we think.

An obvious but necessary disclaimer: this isn’t a law firm, we aren’t lawyers, and nothing published here should be taken as legal advice.

Without getting into too much inside baseball, there are many types of private investigators. I often describe myself as a corporate investigator as a shorthand way of explaining what I do and what my firm focuses on. An even better term is commercial investigator. Not every client we work with is a large corporation, but all of our cases are in some way commercially driven. Indeed, most of our work involves helping clients avoid losing money, or finding it/getting it back if it’s been taken from them. This is in contrast to firms that specialize primarily in helping people with personal problems – locating lost and missing relatives, defending criminal charges, and assisting with family matters. In most of our cases it is a client’s money – rather than his freedom or the future of his family – that is on the line.

This fact requires us to think commercially, like businesspeople, as well as legally, like attorneys or regulators. It is a crucial synergy. Consider some of the questions typical clients of ours face. Whether to sue your business partner for fraud is certainly a legal question, but it’s also a business problem. Similarly, what if you hear a rumor that the managing director of your very profitable foreign subsidiary is accepting kickbacks from suppliers? This type of event certainly threatens your business in more ways than one. What if the waste management company that your firm is looking to acquire is rumored to have historical ties to organized crime?

These are also all information problems. Again, consider an example. An anonymous allegation of wrongdoing delivered via the press or a whistleblower hotline. How do you deal with this? You could ask the subject of the allegations – wave newspaper allegations at the CEO of your acquisition target while shouting “Say it ain’t so, Joe”! Joe might say just that, and even reassure you that the allegations are a fabrication, or lack context, or planted there by his enemies. He might be telling the truth – those things do happen. But should you take Joe’s word for it? I don’t think it’s cynical of me to advise against that.

Solving these types of information problems is our job at its most basic level: we make it so that you aren’t obligated to take someone’s word for it. In that way, we’re no different from any other data provider. With the key difference that the data we specialize in is usually locked away in somebody’s head, or similarly difficult to obtain – special situations that require particular skills and expertise.

From my experience, there aren’t many resources out there that delve into how corporate investigators work and think. The goal here is to fill that gap to some extent. I hope you find it interesting.

We welcome inquiries about the content here, or anything else investigations-related that’s on your mind. Feel free to use the contact form on our homepage to get in touch, or email me directly.

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