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How to Conduct an Effective Internal Investigation: A Practical Guide

Updated: 1 day ago

In the corporate environment, the necessity for internal investigations can arise from various scenarios, ranging from employee complaints to suspected wrongdoings. These investigations are crucial not only for confirming or refuting allegations but also for minimizing liability, preserving evidence, and fulfilling legal requirements. This article provides a comprehensive guide on navigating the complexities of internal investigations, ensuring that they are conducted promptly, impartially, thoroughly, and confidentially.

 

For additional information regarding internal investigations, please contact our Managing Partner, Richard Liu, at richard.liu@consultils.com.



Key Considerations for Internal Investigations


  • Promptness: Time is of the essence. A delay in initiating the investigation can be detrimental and may lead to questions about the investigation's integrity.

  • Impartiality: Investigators must approach the situation without bias, focusing solely on the facts.

  • Confidentiality: While absolute confidentiality cannot be guaranteed, efforts should be made to protect the identity of those involved as much as possible.

  • Thoroughness: The scope of the investigation should be pre-determined, yet flexible enough to follow up on new leads.

  • Documentation: Deciding whether to have participants sign documents can be crucial, depending on the nature of the investigation.


Preparing for an Investigation


Before commencing, determine whether the investigation is mandatory or optional, considering the nature and severity of the allegations, potential costs, timing, individuals involved, and the method of investigation. It's also essential to consider the scope, the potential PR impact, and the effect on operation and employee morale.


Conducting an Interview


Interviews are a critical part of any investigation. Building rapport, setting clear ground rules, gathering background facts, and understanding specific allegations are all vital steps. Summarizing the interview and deciding whether to have the summary signed are also important aspects to consider.

 

Here's how professionals can conduct effective interviews:

  • Start the interview on a positive note to make the interviewee feel comfortable. Establishing a connection can lead to more open and honest communication.

  • Clearly explain the purpose of the interview, the confidentiality of the discussion, and the importance of truthful, accurate responses.

  • Begin with questions about the interviewee's role and background to provide context for the investigation.

  • Move on to the core of the interview by discussing the specific allegations being investigated. Allow the interviewee to share their perspective and knowledge about the incident.

  • Ask about any documents or other witnesses that could support or refute the allegations. This can help corroborate the information gathered.

  • Provide an opportunity for the interviewee to share any additional information they believe is relevant to the investigation.


After the Interview


In the aftermath of interviews during an internal investigation, several key steps must be meticulously undertaken to ensure a thorough and responsible conclusion:


  • Synthesizing Interview Data: The first step is to organize the interview notes into a comprehensive summary. This should accurately reflect all the information gathered and provide a clear overview of the findings.

  • Developing Recommendations: Based on the summary, it's essential to formulate well-considered recommendations. These should address potential disciplinary actions, taking into account the severity of the findings and the individuals involved.

  • Assessing Impacts and Risks:

    • Legal Considerations: Evaluate any legal risks identified during the investigation to mitigate potential liabilities.

    • Business Implications: Understand the potential impact on the company's operations, financial health, and strategic goals.

  • Considering Organizational Well-being: Employee morale and the company's reputation are also crucial. The final recommendations should consider the investigation's impact on staff sentiment and how it may influence public perception.


The culmination of these steps should be a set of final recommendations that are not only actionable but also reflective of the company’s commitment to ethical conduct and legal adherence. These recommendations need to be clear, logical, and align with the organization's values, reinforcing trust and integrity within the company.



Conclusion


Each internal corporate investigation is customized to the situation at hand, yet essential steps must be consistently followed. These steps ensure the company is prepared for legal review and demonstrate its commitment to ethics and compliance. The investigation's findings may prompt policy updates, staff training enhancements, or disciplinary actions. A detailed and well-documented investigation is crucial, as it forms the basis for any necessary follow-up actions.

 

For additional information regarding internal investigations, please contact our Managing Partner, Richard Liu, at richard.liu@consultils.com.


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Richard Liu, Managing Partner, Innovative Legal Services

Richard Liu, Esq. is the Managing Counsel of ILS. He serves clients as a management-side defense lawyer specializing in employment and business litigation. Richard is also an expert on litigation prevention and compliance. He regularly advises Fortune 500 companies and startups on employment, labor, and commercial matters.


Email: richard.liu@consultils.com | Phone: 626-344-8949


*Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal opinion and does not create any attorney-client relationship

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