Our Swiss FRA Directors Kaisa Karvonen and Selma Della Santina attended the ACi Immersive Investigation Workshop in Geneva, the first of its kind in Switzerland, hosted by Schellenberg Wittmer. They had a chance to meet with fraud practitioners from varied backgrounds and ´immerse´ themselves in a practical real life case example designed to share knowledge on best practice investigative techniques and tactics.
The immersive case study demonstrated the continued importance of maintaining the whistle-blower communications rapport, well thought-out data analytics and a thorough fact finding when corroborating an initial allegation further. Available international open-source techniques, and the use of that information in proceedings, were discussed in the group.
Here are their key insights:
- Notable differences in the internal investigation process were evident throughout the workshop between international non-governmental organisations subject to international law and privately held corporations. Whilst the international NGOs maintained clear procedural guidelines for employee suspension, notification, presentation of allegations, and any subsequent dispute resolution, the practises within the corporate world varied from organisation to organisation.
- The subject matter experts stressed the purposeful consideration of maintaining legal privilege in the investigation from the start in both conducting and reporting of the investigation. In Switzerland, consideration needs to be made for tasks performed in an investigation by an external counsel, and whether these might overlap with the typical compliance duties of a company: the privilege does not extend to work of lawyers where such duties and functions are delegated to the external counsel.
- Furthermore, in Switzerland, the company needs to establish a legitimate legal basis to access employee electronic communications and other records for the purposes of an investigation which should be documented prior to commencing a review, even in cases where a company maintains policies around electronic communications restricting them to business use only.
- For any type of organisation and investigation, one of the key considerations throughout the investigation remained to be a question of “substance over form” answering such questions as: “was the submitted evidence fit for purpose?” and “was the documentation what was actually requested?” Remembering to consider the full universe of sources for data and documents in an investigation, especially any systems outside of the financial accounting and reporting systems (such as telephone records, site access logs, gifts & entertainment records, Conflict of Interest checks, and the related supporting evidence) proved important.
As an organisation, ACi is looking to grow in the area of the structured professional development and future accreditation of its members, whilst remaining an independent organisation accessible to everyone interested in developing and maintaining skills in the area of corporate investigations.