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Navigating the Choppy Waters of Corporate Investigations......

Derek Elmer is the Chairman & founder of I-OnAsia and has put together some of his thoughts on navigating #corporate #investigations from the 20 years that he has been running I-OnAsia and overseen thousands of investigations for corporate clients.

#investigations are a normal course of action for any large #corporation. Most #global #corporate clients that we support at I-OnAsia have several #investigations underway at any one time, however, a large proportion of those #investigations never make for front page #news and are finalised quietly behind the scenes. These could be allegations of #bullying and #harassment, #misappropriation of funds, #investigations into unknown risks, there a number of #investigations that are undertaken every day, each requiring key questions to be answered and reported on accordingly.

Investigations are a cost that has to be factored in as a result of doing #business on the global stage, no #corporate #organisation is exempt, and to those who think they are, their downfalls are inevitable, and often result in significant penalties, and even periods of incarceration for their #leadership team if the negligence and failures are that serious. Good corporate investigations quickly support key decision makers in identifying failures or wrongdoings in their earlier stages, which minimises the damage to the organisation, its #leadership team, board members and #shareholders.

Corporate Investigations can also assist in safeguarding against the ever-increasing levels of #risk being faced by #corporate organisations and ensure that relationships between corporate's and their relevant #regulators remains one of cooperation, not resistance or fear, as is so often seen.

Firstly, a large proportion of corporate investigations are commenced by the failure of a once trusted employee. Sometimes, the power of temptation can takeover, and the ease to which one believes they can acquire a financial gain to support themselves can bring them undone very quickly! #Stealing, #fraud and #bribery are all outcomes that some of our investigations at I-OnAsia have reached. All with one thing in common, the subject person was seeking to improve their quality of life financially, and free themselves from the ever-increasing financial bubble they had created from overspending and living above their means.

The signs are often there, some choose to ignore them to avoid fracturing relationships and others never imagine that someone so trusting could turn so bad......

Secondly, corporate structures with positions that rely heavily on profit margins, sales targets, and other incentive led positions, can lead to often rather complex schemes being developed to demonstrate significant successes to boards and shareholders so that one can either seek a pay rise, or, just keep their contract for another 12 months. However, as is best described, "the devil is in the detail’, when #investigators are called in, the contrast could not be starker and the ramifications significant to corporate valuations and #stock prices when the issue hits front pages.

Thirdly, often as a direct result of the previous point, corporate investigations can commence as a result of #regulatory breach, where a failure to comply with legislation, policy or procedure has been identified, reported on, and led to a review, either carried out internally and then reported on to the regulator, or the regulator will assume the lead investigative role. Internal reviews may not be enough though, and it has been well demonstrated that often for corporate organisations to recover effectively, they need to open their door to external providers like I-OnAsia’s global corporate investigators to support an impartial review of the corporate failures by means of a thorough investigation.

I-OnAsia has 20 years of experience investigating corporate wrongdoing, including #theft, #fraud, #bribery, #corruption, #misconduct and a wide range of other financial matters. Our professionals include certified #fraud examiners, former #lawenforcement officers, #forensic experts, and #intelligence analysts, all of whom provide unique unbiased reviews for global CEO’s to make good decisions from the reports they are provided.

As a global firm, I-OnAsia offers a broad range of advisory services to clients throughout #Asia, #Europe and the #USA.

So, what are the main issues CEO’s and corporate leaders should be focused on to stay one step ahead of the choppy seas of a corporate crisis?

Well after 20 years at I-OnAsia, I believe that #culture determines the success and failure of all organisations. Organisations have got to embrace a culture where employees are encouraged to speak up if they identify a wrongdoing or foul play by another staff member or stakeholder.

So often you hear and read about horror stories where employees wished they’d spoken up, but felt it wasn’t their place to do so, or were too concerned as to how they would be treated if they did. This cannot be the case, and is a totally unacceptable position to be in, in modern day business management. Employees are the eyes and ears for all #CEO’s, and for any corporate organisation to stay ahead of the ethical curve, good culture is a CEO’s number one priority. This culture should be written into policy and procedure and led from the top of the organisation down. Failure is not an option!

There have been countless times that I have walked in to a boardroom to be briefed on a crisis, and immediately I can sense the toxic culture among the executives, all throwing blame around the table for the situation they are facing. Each trying to distance themselves from the problem as fast as they can and the CEO wondering how they got to this position in the first place.

“The standard you walk past, is the standard you are willing to accept.”

The next important step to take is to be fair, firm, and most importantly, decisive, by this we mean, act immediately, do not delay an investigation, often investigations are delayed through fear of the findings and the gravity of the situation that the organisation could be facing. By starting an investigation immediately, you can cease any further damage and quickly remove a cause until such time as the investigation is completed and the ultimate cause and resolution identified.

Who, What, When, Why & How…..

It maybe, that as a result of the allegation, that the organisation will face an external inquiry/investigation by an industry regulator. They may even need to ‘self-report’ on the allegation. However, to demonstrate the seriousness to which the issue is being taken, commencing an investigation immediately shows proactive steps in getting to the bottom of the matter and answering the Who, what, when why and how, and being open to any failures which are identified during the course of such an inquiry or investigation.

With any large-scale issue impacting a corporate organisation, to have a #crisis management team with the necessary skills to support is also critical in the success of getting out the other side. Messaging to stakeholders whilst under pressure both internally and externally has been the downfall of many organisations in the past. By not #communicating effectively can allow those interested parties externally to determine the direction of the public messaging, assume the current position of the organisation, or make up a position because there is no position being held, all of which needs to be avoided at all costs, but can only be done by accurate investigations which can report on matters which don't jeopardise the investigation and can allow fact to be reported and not fiction.

I-OnAsia has had tremendous success in the past in putting together skilled teams to support #CEO’s, #Chairpersons and boards navigate the un-chartered waters of a #crisis.

Not only is it necessary to act quickly, but to also steer away from investigations being carried out “In House” or "Internally", often seen as the most cost effective option, it can also end up being the most costly if done in a manner which is not thorough, doesn’t protect employee or stake holder rights, and does not cover key areas of the investigation because of a lack of experience by the delegated member to carry out the investigation, or because a desired outcome is wanting to be reached regardless of the evidence which is found or 'not found'.

You cant defend what you don't know........

I-OnAsia has seen cases where internal investigative delegates have advised witnesses of the case being investigated so they can best prepare for their interview, lost vital pieces of #evidence, interviewed witnesses where a significant conflict exists between interviewer and interviewee, namely a husband interviewing his wife who also works in the company, and failing to report accurate findings to protect the organisation.

Bringing in external #investigative support, like the global in house team of I-OnAsia can mitigate all these issues and brings with it 20 years of experience in dealing with complex matters which require a thorough, impartial, and sensitive approach to all aspects.

#Investigations into the failings of a corporate organisation are a routine, but important matter for any #global corporation who needs to be prepared and ready for such a matter. The risks to stakeholders if not taken seriously are substantial, with fines amounting to millions. These are the investigations that appear on papers, in social media and on Google pages for years to come.

Through I-OnAsia’s experience helping #global corporate clients, their boards and internal and external stakeholders with alleged wrongdoing, our team at I-OnAsia have found that companies can reduce the consequences of misconduct by shaping company culture from the top of the organisation down, and ensure that employees are encouraged to speak up, and are supported when they do so.

Being fair, firm and decisive in addressing allegations, ensuring that all matters are handled by professional investigators in accordance with the #law, engaging positively with regulatory authorities when required to do so.

Complacency is a corporate leaders biggest challenge! Never become complacent, always strive to better.

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