Best Practices for Internal Investigations: Leveraging Digital Evidence and External Intelligence

How CYPFER Ensures Thorough and Effective Investigations

When it comes to internal investigations, especially those triggered by whistleblower allegations, a comprehensive approach is essential. This means looking at both internal and external sources of information to ensure a thorough investigation. At CYPFER, we specialize in navigating these complexities, helping executives make informed decisions about potentially sensitive and resource-intensive inquiries.

Key Considerations for Document and Mailbox Review

Starting with Mailboxes and Documents

The first step in many internal investigations is often reviewing the email and digital documents of the involved individuals. This includes emails, instant messages, and files saved on company servers. While this can provide crucial insights, it’s rarely enough on its own. Initial reviews should use keyword searches based on the whistleblower’s claims, which can then be refined as the investigation progresses. It’s important to understand the specific communication patterns, languages, and industry jargon to get an accurate picture.

Case Study: Multinational Corporation Investigation

In a recent case, a whistleblower alleged financial misconduct by a senior executive at a multinational corporation. Our initial email and document review, using broad keyword searches, yielded limited results. Recognizing the need for a more refined approach, we developed a set of keywords that included both English and the local language used in internal communications, as well as relevant industry jargon and acronyms. This strategy allowed us to uncover critical emails, providing a clearer picture of the misconduct and guiding our next steps.

Adapting to New Communication Patterns

With the growing use of messaging apps for corporate communication, investigators must adapt their strategies. Unlike emails, messages on apps are often brief and informal, sometimes consisting of only emojis. This makes keyword searches less effective. Instead, we refine our scope based on the email review, identifying key periods and individuals, and then conduct a detailed review of messaging app exchanges.

It’s also essential to look for messages suggesting off-platform communications, such as phone calls or in-person meetings, which may indicate attempts to avoid digital scrutiny.

Beyond Document Review: Using External Intelligence

Leveraging Open Source and Human Intelligence

Relying solely on document review can be limiting. Incorporating external intelligence early in the investigation can provide critical insights and sometimes even negate the need for a full mailbox review. Open source investigations can quickly verify or disprove certain allegations. For instance, by analyzing corporate filings and social media, we’ve debunked allegations of conflicts of interest, saving our clients significant time and resources.

Conversely, open source research can also corroborate parts of an allegation, justifying further investigation. Techniques like social media analysis, network mapping, and corporate record research can uncover valuable leads and support the internal investigation process.

Case Study: Conflict of Interest Allegation

In another case, a client faced allegations that a senior executive had awarded a contract to a consultancy firm in which they held a significant stake. Through detailed analysis of the consultancy firm’s corporate filings and social media activity, we confirmed that the firm was a partnership owned by a small group of founders, with no evidence linking the executive as a shareholder. This allowed the client to dismiss the allegation and focus their resources on other critical areas of the investigation.

Gathering Intelligence from External Sources

In some cases, external intelligence may not be readily available through public records. This is where human intelligence becomes invaluable. Discreetly approaching well-informed sources, such as former employees or industry contacts, can provide crucial insights without alerting the subjects of the investigation. For example, in an investigation involving a senior executive at an investment firm, we gathered intelligence from individuals connected to the firm’s portfolio companies. This enabled our client to address the issues effectively without raising suspicions.

Preparing for Effective Interviews

Strategic Interview Preparation

Interviews should be conducted after gathering substantial preliminary evidence. This ensures the interviewing team is well-prepared and can cross-check interviewee responses against known facts. Initial findings help strategize the interview process, determining the order of interviews and the specific areas to probe.

Preparation is key to successful interviews. Using insights from document reviews, open source investigations, and human intelligence, we develop comprehensive interview plans. This includes preparing document packs and questions that focus on filling information gaps and addressing inconsistencies.

At CYPFER, we understand that internal investigations are complex and high-stakes. Our expertise in leveraging both digital evidence and external intelligence ensures a thorough and effective process. If you’re facing a challenging internal investigation and need expert guidance, contact CYPFER today. Let’s work together to protect your business and uphold the highest standards of integrity.

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