A Quick-Start Guide to Corporate Investigations

Whether it’s false claims, securities fraud or money laundering, corporate fraud is an alive and well business model in the United States and around the world. Regardless of whom the victim or client is, the following are steps that can be taken towards digging into corporate fraud investigations.
First, consider the varying regulations in states in which the company operates. Determine whether certain states require stricter laws in reporting and operations and focus on states from each end of the spectrum. For example, when it comes to corporate healthcare, pharmaceutical drug companies or medical device companies, Texas and Florida have the most lax laws, while states like California and New York are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Spend some time understanding what public data might be available and where. If you need to FOIA records from city, state or federal government agencies, try calling whomever will be receiving your request prior to your inquiry and reference your phone call in your written request. Sometimes a personal touch can help reduce the weeks to months to years long waiting process and/or set you up for fast track requests and responses next time around. If you're told you're not allowed to access particular data or information, be sure to ask why as well as what information is available. (See FOIA example here.)
If there's a way to avoid the often tumultuous FOIA process, go that route! Occasionally, you might come across public data on the internet that you want and need to analyze but can't obtain for technical reasons. Instead of formally requesting the data in a format that you can manipulate, save time and headaches by contracting with a computer programmer who can legally "scrape" or "crawl" paginated or link traversed data in nearly no time at all. (Tip: Occasionally you'll find a web database that only produces a portion of all results at one time. Note how the URL changes from one page to the next, and see if you can force the site to produce all rows of data by manipulating the URL. If you can view all data on the same page, you can then scrape the complete results using free tools such as Chrome's 'Scraper’ extension)
In medical device cases, government databases such as the FDA’s MAUDE database can provide insight towards frequency of adverse event reporting. An uptick in adverse events could be impacted by false claims, increased marketing and/or off label use. ProPublica’s Dollars for Docs database, made possible through the Sunshine Act, allows you to quickly see how much and how frequently individual doctors are being paid by medical device companies and pharmaceutical drug companies, which could help leverage that personal injury or false claims case. Even the most elite medical journals miss or simply do not have the time or the resources to research conflicts of interest, so if you find an interesting journal article, take the doctors disclosures (or lack thereof) with a grain of salt. It is not uncommon for those doctors who claim no disclosures to have some PowerPoint presentation floating around the interwebs from a corporate event years ago.
With the right Google search, you might find something on the internet that a company never intended to be made public. Advanced search results are a great way to find these documents, spreadsheets and powerpoints. You can setup an advanced Google search through the settings function and return results from a specific website, file type (xls, pdf, ppt, etc.), date range, etc. You can also manually type in your advanced search like this. Many companies also have their own employee portal and/or database, so check with any current employees who might be potential witnesses to walk you through the portal and potentially obtain material information that is not readily accessible to the public.
Look on Glassdoor to see employee reviews of companies and check Monster for resumes that might detail the duties of various positions and past employees. Rarely will you get a case where a single witness/whistleblower can tell you everything about a company's fraud, so it's up to you to piece together the information from various witnesses who worked in different roles. If you’re searching for past employees who could serve as potential witnesses, you might also try an advanced LinkedIn search and a "past" filter for the company in question. You can also check archived screenshots of corporate websites through a website like the Wayback Machine to identify executives and board members who are no longer with the company. Be sure to check where former employees are currently working, as a lateral move to another sketchy company in the industry weighs a lot less than a switch to a reputed non-profit.

Contact us at Armistead Investigators
if you need help obtaining, analyzing, or cleaning data, records or other information.

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Posted on February 7, 2017 .