Tips for Conducting An Effective Internal Investigation [Part 1]

Whether big or small, internal investigations require companies to mobilize their resources efficiently and effectively. Internal investigations can be driven by external sources like the government or a lawsuit, while others are driven by internal sources like a whistleblower or the internal audit department. No matter the source or size, most internal investigations are time sensitive and having a plan in place can save your company time and resources. This alert provides the first of several tips to ensure an effective internal investigation.

1. Develop and Follow Internal Policies

Having internal policies in place before an investigation arises will help streamline the process of conducting the investigation. Examples of such policies include whistleblower policies, anti-corruption guidelines, and policies related to evidence preservation. Importantly, once an investigation arises, it is critical that the company follows the policies that it has in place. Designating a person or group tasked with ensuring that internal policies are followed can assist in accomplishing an effective internal investigation. Finally, evaluating whether policies and procedures need to be revised and updated following an internal investigation will allow the company to continue to improve its internal investigation process over time.

2. Know Your Audience

Identifying the party(ies) who will ultimately evaluate and determine the outcome of the investigation is crucial. If there is any possibility that C-Suite management may be implicated in the investigation, the ultimate decision maker may be the board of directors or the audit committee. In some instances, the ultimate decision maker may be the legal or human resources departments. Identifying the ultimate audience at the outset allows for effective communication throughout the investigation.

3. Know the Law that Applies

Recognizing the legal parameters of any internal investigation is critical at the outset. The issues that will need to be explored if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) guidelines apply differ greatly from the issues that apply in a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) investigation. Identifying the correct statutes and guidelines that may apply at the outset of an investigation will inform the documents and interviews needed during the investigation. It is also important to reevaluate the legal parameters of the investigation as the facts develop. This ensures that additional legal issues are identified and analyzed.

Our next alert will continue to focus on internal investigations and provide several more best practices tips to improve the investigation process.

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