Using Intelligence to Unmask the People Behind Business Deals
In recent years, increased access to personal and business data has provided rich deposits of decision analytics there for companies to mine if they understand their value and know how to access them. Ignoring such a valuable resource is naïve and potentially hazardous to business owners and stakeholders.
Collecting, collating, processing and analyzing massive and complex data repositories will often be referred to as business intelligence. These data mining applications and processes are part of strategic intelligence that, in its totality, drives and informs corporate business decisions and strategies and can play a significant role in risk management.
However, there is more to consider. Though Canada is approaching its global peers when it comes to managing risk, there is still a gap in addressing the flexibility needed for Canadian businesses to excel in the existing economic climate.
Safety and leverage
A cursory approach to vetting national and international business partners is no longer sufficient, and yet, persists, in part because of the proliferation of online background check services that only scratch the surface of an investigative subject’s history. These background checks are often limited to criminal records checks and credit check. Therefore, the true nature of the subject and their patterns of behavior, remain hidden. Only a fraction of ‘bad behavior’, which could imperil a business, results in a criminal record or law suit. True investigation requires deep mining of information that is not so easily attained.
A proper due diligence effort may delay a new business relationship but taking shortcuts and failing to thoroughly scrutinize business partners can have catastrophic financial and operational consequences. Businesses would be well advised to proceed cautiously and thoroughly, undertaking a systematic investigative approach that will unearth potential risks.
Additionally, an oft overlooked, yet crucial part of business intelligence is a comprehensive or forensic examination of those entities and persons behind any business deal. Much of the investigative research conducted by our firm identifies red flags or potential red flags. Some will stop stakeholders from pursuing investment further, but nearly as important, many provide the decision-maker with new information, not previously disclosed that may be used as leverage to negotiate a more beneficial agreement.
Protect your business
Because of the tendency of businesses to conduct only cursory background checks, limited to the examination of a couple of databases, the resulting findings are incomplete and leave companies with a false sense of security.
To avoid lengthy and costly litigation, financial loss or corporate embarrassment, companies should consider establishing a sound intelligence-led process from the start. Hire a reputable investigator that actually investigates. Realize that there are no standards in the background check industry: the quality of service and experience of investigators is wildly variable.
If you want the job done right, ensure you hire an investigator that has real-world, in-the-trenches experience, methods and infrastructure necessary to access the necessary databases, mine hidden data, and properly analyze findings.
Ensure your investigator incorporates the following areas as part of their research:
Confirmation of identity
Establishing identity is critical. Your investigator should be able to confirm the identity and address of the subject, establish residency, marital status or relationships, including family. Identity is a key component to authenticating the continuity of a person’s background and their activities. A name change, whether of a business or a person, may indicate that something is being hidden.
Social & news media
Examining personal or business blogs, social media posts, and profiles are important aspects of a background research. Areas of potential interest and concern include: the type of information they post and responses or exchanges from and with their readers; any local, national or international news articles referencing the investigation subject, their associations, or business; and, any relevant articles that warrant follow up.
Your investigator should establish continuity in the subject’s employment history, their associations with and identity of their employers. Are their representations consistent with this history when compared with their current resume or public profile? Can their qualifications, adverse reports, omissions or misrepresentations be identified and verified?
Determine if the subject has any political affiliations, has made contributions to or has associations with profit or non-profit organizations. Does the subject sit on any boards, past or present? Have associated entities been subject to litigation, controversy or sanctions? Are there any bankruptcies or connections to foreign corporations?
A good asset search will start by determining if the subject (person(s)/business) owns real property including assets such as watercraft, aircraft, motor vehicles, businesses, property or land and other assets. Is business being conducted by proxies or “nominees” where the subject has control of property, but their name is not on title? Does the subject own shares, stocks or bonds in any publicly traded company? Does the person, or company, have an ownership position and control in a publicly traded company? If so, the company should then be examined for regulatory problems or investigations. Are any of the subject’s assets pledged as collateral for any other property or holdings?
Determine (if possible) if the subject has criminal convictions or pending criminal trials (both within Canada or elsewhere) that are relevant to the search. Examine the subject’s civil court history for all civil litigation, judgments or other filings.
Are there any judgments, liens, penalties or regulatory assessments against the subject? Has the party filed for bankruptcy or bankruptcy protection? Does any information culled from the investigation support pending or actual grievances against the subject and does it have the potential to impact their financial status? Are there any relevant credit reports?
Determine if there are any associates or affiliates that have ever been involved in regulatory complaints. Does the subject hold any professional designations and if so have any disciplinary actions, complaints, fines or sanctions been registered against them?
Patterns of behaviour
A proper intelligence report and background investigation provides a complete, more accurate depiction of the subject of the investigation. Skilled investigators will collate and connect relevant pieces of the information puzzle to help you, or your company, make informed decisions.
Investing significant capital and time into a business, a partnership or national/international investment is a risky undertaking. Entering into personal or business relationship with blinders on can have devastating consequences, both financially and personally. By taking the necessary steps to find information that will inform and protect, you can minimize or eliminate problems down the road and avoid the cost and stress of litigation, financial loss or corporate embarrassment.
Pat Fogarty is a former Superintendent in charge of international organized crime investigations now leading Intelligence and investigations for business and law firms at Fathom Research Group.