INTERNAL INVESTIGATIONS: 3 keys to bear in mind
When an organization receives a report stating that there has been (or is suspected to have occurred) a behavior that violates the code of ethics or conduct, a series of internal procedures are triggered. These procedures may vary in the different cases (and in the different organizations) but generally, they share the same outcome or resolution: the opening of an Internal Investigation.
Currently, an investigation is a complex and at the same time necessary process, which usually involves several areas in the organization. An internal investigation may generate impacts not only within the company, but also outside the organization itself, and may affect both its image and reputation, as well as its legal responsibility and the link with third parties, when for example it involves suppliers, clients or even other business partners.
While it is true that there is no single way to carry out an investigation, our yearly experience leads us to formulate some tips which may help to approach internal investigations in a more efficient way.
1. Begin the investigation with a clear objective
Reports that trigger investigations usually contain only a part of the information that actually exists and the rest of it will be discovered throughout the investigation. There are numerous details and derivations that may come up along the investigative path, and this can – in some cases – generate confusion or even loss of focus of why we are embarking on that path. Regarding internal investigations, the investigators are not prosecutors or police officers, but rather they seek the information they need to document the report received and help the organization correct wrongdoings or conducts within itself. From the standpoint of research, many aspects can be interesting to review, but not all of them will lead us to be efficient from the standpoint of the organization. That is why it is essential that researchers begin their work with a clear objective. And if information produced along the investigation suggests the objective should be reviewed, the investigative strategy can be reassessed and rethought.
2. Plan for the foreseeable and anticipate for the unpredictable
In research, there is no such thing as too much planning. An internal investigation is a very delicate process which involves the organization in several sensitive aspects for the business strategy: its human resources, its confidential information, its reputation, the value of its brand, the way it interacts with third parties, etc.
Investigations do not occur on a theoretical level but on a practical level. They require people interviewing, documents, reviewing and complex decisions making. Planning allows to think and define the actions to be carried out and evaluate the most efficient way possible to carry them out, producing the smaller stress level possible in the organization, complying with all internal compliance requirements and external legal and regulatory requirements, both from the jurisdiction where the investigation is carried out and from the parent company where the company is based.
It is good to understand that more often than you would like, and beyond planning, there may be unforeseen events. For this reason, our advice is: plan in detail and also whenever possible, leave a margin – of time, of resources – to deal with unforeseen events.
3. Before starting, get to know well the ground
As stated before, investigations occur on the practical level, and when we are acting, there is little room to correct mistakes. Knowing the ground well is one of the main recommendations. It is necessary to know well the organization, what it does, what its corporate culture is, who is who – in particular, of those we will have to turn to, to interview or ask for collaboration – where and how information is stored, what background exists in previous investigation cases, how we should collect and store the information, what precautions should be taken not to violate local regulation and the internal compliance policy, if there are restrictions – in particular due to the context of pandemic in the places that researchers must access to interview people or collect information – and how to carry out actions remotely, etc.
At G5 Integritas we can help you plan or conduct internal investigations in accordance with the best practices and complying with the international and local standards of the different countries in Latin America. For more information, we invite you to contact us at [email protected] or by visiting our website www.g5integritaslatam.com