We have all been there before, a networking mixer, a social engagement, or an interview with a potential client. Once the introductions are swapped, the question generally arises, “so, what do you do?” As certain as anything, the response “I am a Private Investigator” will certainly raise the eyebrows and interests of the opposite person, in part due to the uniqueness of the response as well as the immediate suspicions that you may not “appear” to be someone who is in the “secretive” profession of video surveillance, dumpster diving, forensic examination, or any one of the countless tasks repeatedly portrayed today on television dramas.
Personally, it has taken on average five additional minutes for me to describe to the person that I am a professional investigator as well as a Certified Fraud Examiner (“CFE”), who specializes in conducting financial fraud examinations and due diligence probes on behalf of a major law firm which concentrates on securities and antitrust litigation. By this point of the conversation, the typical facial response reflects a deflated smile and less interest by the moment. “You mean you don’t pull people’s bank records, wear disguises to gain entry into buildings, or use devices to listen to people’s conversations?” From this point, add another five minutes for me to debrief the individual on the legal, ethical, and operational restrictions of conducting such tasks.
By this point of the conversation, the person generally has the appearance of a child learning that Santa Clause is not real (note to wife, not to let the children read this). The turning back point of the conversation is usually when I describe in further detail the countless advantages in any industry of utilizing a professional licensed investigator. Personally, I have worked directly in the legal arena now for over a decade and have seen first-hand how many of the results of my probes have further advanced the cases which we work every day. In addition, the heightened pleading requirements of the federal judicial system have encouraged more attorneys to hire professional investigators to assist with obtaining evidentiary information that an attorney or a paralegal (both without the proper training) may fall short.
Attorneys are not the only professionals who turn to investigators for information. Finance leaders in investment banking, venture capitalists, hedge fund managers and M&A outfits from all over the world have turned to hiring professional investigators (with the appropriate specialization) to assist with obtaining concrete facts concerning a prospective client, a competitor, or investors. I say “appropriate” since I have also heard far too often over the years from organizations who were not pleased with the results found by the investigator they hired. After some vetting however, I learned that the investigative group they hired specialized in insurance fraud probes, not due diligence investigations. This situation is comparative to hiring a divorce lawyer to handle a bankruptcy proceeding. Lesson learned: be sure to fully debrief the investigator and determine whether the appropriate experience is there.
Both public and private companies now utilize professional investigators to assist with obtaining non-biased and often non-public facts concerning a potential executive hire, supplier, or acquisition opportunity. Again, having the right person with the appropriate experience in conducting in-depth due diligence investigations and who utilizes more than public record databases can be the difference or not of avoiding future public embarrassment and costly litigation.
As with any service provider, a professional investigator is only as good as the information they are able to obtain. However, in my experience, it has always served me well to fully explain to new acquaintances the differences between Hollywood and reality, while opening the door to the many advantages of utilizing a professional with the experience and access to information not commonly available via a Google search.
As a veteran “PI” or “Sleuth” or “Gumshoe” or any one of the many designations for my profession, I have had my share of “cloak and dagger” operations over the years, though my day-to-day casework involves a far less clandestine platform. As technology evolves and information continues to be at the forefront to any business deal or legal strategy, professional investigators will be called upon for consultation. So, the next time you are at a reception and someone asks, “What do you do?” tell them “I provide my clients with the facts needed for them to make informed business decisions” (just be sure you are not wearing a trench-coat and fedora when you say it!)
About the Author:
Kevin M. Cosgrove, CFE is a licensed Private Investigator in New York as well as Certified Fraud Examiner. He specializes in investor fraud and corporate due diligence. He can be reached at email@example.com