FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

December 15, 2011

Is There Room for Law Enforcement in a Workplace Investigation?

Ed. Note-today we are pleased to host an article by our colleague from north of  the Border, Lindsey Walker of i-sight.com. 

When you want a workplace investigation done right, you choose an investigator that has the knowledge and experience to deal with the specific type of case under investigation. This could be someone within your organization, an external investigator, or in some cases, law enforcement. However, when an incident occurs in the workplace, many companies jump the gun and involve law enforcement right away, without considering their options. Failure to select an appropriate investigator could put your company on the line.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Involving Law Enforcement

At the ASIS International 2011 Seminar and Exhibits, James Whitaker, President, The Whitaker Group, LLC and Ed Casey, CPP, Senior Director – Protective Services, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital led a session called “Private Sector Investigations: When (and if) to Involve Law Enforcement”.  Whitaker and Casey outlined some of the advantages and disadvantages of getting law enforcement involved in workplace investigations.

Advantages include:

  • The decision complies with company policy or law
  • Law enforcement can provide additional resources
  • Broader jurisdiction
  • No additional cost
  • Experience (this can be both an advantage and a disadvantage)

Disadvantages include:

  • Loss of control over the investigation
  • Possible unwanted publicity
  • Timing
  • Business disruption
  • Experience

It’s important to remember that once you get law enforcement involved in an investigation, you can’t go back. In some cases, you can use the fact that you aren’t getting law enforcement involved as a source of leverage in an investigation – employee admits to wrongdoing, you part ways, end of issue.

Experience Matters

During the presentation, Whitaker and Casey discussed the importance of experience and the fact that the law enforcement agent assigned to your case may or may not have experience dealing with the type of incident under investigation. Involving law enforcement in an investigation is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Companies are liable for ensuring that investigations are conducted properly, which makes the investigator selection process very important. When selecting the best investigator for the case, whether it’s an internal or external source, you need to take their level of knowledge and experience into consideration. It’s also important to remember that the same person or group may not be the best investigator for every case. Each case varies in complexity, so you need to make sure that the investigator has the skills to get the job done.

When to Get Law Enforcement Involved

Whitaker and Casey suggest involving law enforcement if company policy or the law says so, or if a serious criminal act has occurred. If the investigation involves armed robbery, assault, arson, significant theft or any other type of serious crime, notify law enforcement. In some organizations, it’s company policy to notify law enforcement when an incident is under investigation. Whitaker and Casey recommend familiarizing yourself with local and state requirements and contacting your legal department to find out what steps you should take before getting law enforcement involved.

Lindsey Walker can be reached at LWalker@customerexpressions.com.

November 18, 2011

Two Important Words to Remember: Ethics Matters

Filed under: compliance programs,Ethics,Lindsey Walker — tfoxlaw @ 1:02 am

Ed. Note-today we have a guest posting from our colleague north of the border-Lindsey Walker from i-sight.com 

Brand value and reputation can really take a beating when a company is faced with accusations of unethical behavior in the workplace. Information travels faster and is more accessible now than ever before, which makes “laying low” virtually impossible – just ask Tiger Woods. In the article “Ethics Branding” by Steve Brock, he focuses in on why workplace ethics are heavily connected to the power of your brand:

“Your brand is more than just a logo or tagline. It involves everything you do. Every touch point with customers affects their perspective of you, and thus your brand. Ethics matter because they are at the heart of your values. Values matter because they are at the heart of your brand.”

Ethics Matters

A company with a bad reputation will have a hard time holding onto customers and attracting top talent. Consumers care about ethics. Job seekers and potential candidates care about ethics too.

The results of a survey conducted by creative agency, 23red, help support the fact that consumers care about ethics. There were 1000 people interviewed for the survey and they were asked questions about brand ethics and how it affects their purchase decisions. During their research, the agency found that:

  • “91% of consumers say brand behavior is an influential factor in making purchases.
  • 74% would be interested in knowing more about the behavior of a company before buying.
  • 60% say that awareness of “a company’s ethics – environmental record, sourcing, sustainable employment policies, etc, affects their decision making”.
  • 53% say knowing that “the company donates a percentage of profits to charity and good causes” is influential when considering a purchase.
  • 64% agree that companies should adopt a role in the well-being of communities and wider society.”

The findings are pretty eye-opening and certainly give companies something to think about. The findings also send a clear message that integrity and a commitment to ethics can be a great way to market a brand and communicate to the public.

Promoting Your Brand’s Ethics

Every company has a different reason for acting ethically. In Leon Kaye’s article “A New Era of Ethical Leadership?,” for Triple Pundit, Kaye writes:
“The reasons vary: a genuine concern for people and communities, the desire to avoid additional regulations, reducing costs while increasing revenues and of course, enhanced brand value and building trust with customers and stakeholders. That trust and brand value, however, can take years or decades to build, and in an instant can be washed away.”

When was the last time your company shared a story about its  ethics with the public? As Kaye mentioned, building goodwill can take time, but everyone has to start somewhere. As a business, if your main reason for acting ethically is to protect the public, wouldn’t you want to share that message? Let people know you value them, their health, their safety and everything else. Buy most importantly, back up your words with actions. People know when a company is bluffing and they won’t be afraid to call you out on it. If a company’s commitment to ethics, sustainability, safety, the environment, etc., is a deciding factor in a purchase decision, isn’t it time you started letting people know where you stand?

Lindsey Walker can be reached at LWalker@customerexpressions.com.

August 1, 2011

The Benefits of Investigating Employee Complaints

Filed under: compliance programs,Investigations,Lindsey Walker — tfoxlaw @ 1:46 am

Ed. Note-today we are pleased to host an article by our colleague from north of  the Border, Lindsey Walker of i-sight.com. 

Managers can’t sit with their hands over their ears chanting “lalala I can’t hear you”. Ignorance is far from bliss when it comes to workplace misconduct. Ongoing misconduct such as fraud, theft, discrimination and other activities can lead to an unsafe workplace, as well as significant costs to an organization. Failure to address employee complaints about any of these activities can only cause more trouble for you and your organization.

Ignoring Complaints

I came across the article, “Careful Investigation of Internal Complaints May Reduce Fraud Exposure,” written by William H. Maruca, Esq. and Carl J. Rychcik, Esq. Partners at Fox Rothschild LLP for Becker’s Hospital Review. The article discusses the number of incidents that were reported internally before an employee filed a lawsuit:

“A recent study by theNationalWhistleblowersCenterfound that 89.7% of employees who eventually file a lawsuit, such as a False Claims Act case, initially reported their concerns internally, either to supervisors or compliance departments. In other words, a lawsuit was only filed after the employee failed to get satisfaction from the employer’s handling of the issue.”

The numbers above send a loud message to employers – investigate employee complaints! The article goes on to explain:

“Many of these cases could potentially have been mitigated and/or prevented by (1) having a sufficient internal compliance program in place, and/or (2) carefully investigating any complaints and reacting appropriately. Taking some simple steps before a lawsuit is filed can ultimately mean the difference in preventing litigation and/or saving significant money.”

Investigations are Key

Here are 5 reasons why you should always investigate internal complaints:

1. Investigations help organizations prove that they take their code of conduct and other workplace policies seriously by enforcing rules and consequences.

2. Investigating employee complaints allows you to find out whether or not a violation of the company’s policy has in fact occurred. Should a lawsuit arise or the government gets involved, you’ll be better prepared to handle inquiries if you investigated promptly and secured necessary evidence.

3. Investigations can be expensive, as we’ve learned with cases likeAvon, but lawsuits aren’t cheap either. Investigating employee complaints helps reduce risks and keeps your reputation intact. Companies have been rewarded for being cooperative and taking initiative by conducting internal investigations. Companies that fail to investigate are often slammed in the media and criticized by the public for their lax approach to misconduct.

4. Encouraging internal reporting helps you detect misconduct in its earlier stages. The sooner you investigate, the sooner you put an end to the misconduct reported. For fraud cases, this is particularly important, as stopping fraud sooner results in less money lost to fraud.

5. Investigating employee complaints allows you to identify patterns of misconduct and take the necessary steps to prevent it in the future. If you find that a significant number of investigations deal with sexual harassment, then you might want to take that as a sign that more time needs to be spent on that subject during employee training. Use the information from investigations to guide employee training and revamp policies, emphasizing on the problem areas identified by employee complaints.

Lindsey Walker can be reached at LWalker@customerexpressions.com.

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