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Why Tight Deadlines Can Jeopardize Corporate Investigations

Investigators emphasize the importance of “being realistic” about timelines

Posted by Jake Edmiston on May 22nd, 2014

It’s not uncommon for investigator Bill Kowalksi to encounter panicked business owners.

“We get called by our corporate clients saying, ‘I’m bleeding money, somebody inside my firm is stealing from me,’” he said. “They want it solved quickly.”

Those demands for deadlines in corporate investigations stand in stark contrast to the world of police investigations, where deadlines more often revolve around tasks, not the rate at which detectives solve cases, according to Kowalksi, who spent 25 years as an FBI agent.

Studies abound on the effects of time-pressure on the decision-making process, and Kowalski said police investigations include too many variables to demand that they be closed in a short period of time.

But corporate investigators also emphasize the importance of “being realistic” in assigning deadlines to corporate investigations – since undue pressure could risk crucial details going unnoticed, investigator Dusty Lefdal told i-Sight.

Risks of Unrealistic Deadlines

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“When you let a deadline dictate your investigation, you are hampering your possible outcome,” said Lefdal, an investigator with Employers Investigative Services. “Loose ends do not get tied, and information … gets left on the table.”

Because corporate investigations are at the mercy of other people’s schedules – witnesses, suspects and managers – it’s tough to predict exactly how long a resolution will take. But if the investigation is under pressure to finish on time, Lefdal said the firm could be at risk of liability.

“One misstep and we land in court,” he said.

Both Ledfal and Kowalski were adamant that investigators manage their clients’ expectations, setting realistic goals for the case to avoid undue pressure later in the process.

Managing Expectations

“Most of the time, when we’re up front with our clients,” Lefdal said, “they understand and can adjust certain things on their end to move a deadline if needed.”

For Kowalksi, if a client’s deadline is “as soon as possible,” he’ll ensure he gets the resources necessary to produce results in a short span of time.

Unlike police investigations, malfeasance in the corporate world is much more contained, Kowalski said – so it’s much more likely that he can find the root of the problem by “following the money.”

“It just comes down to cost,” he said, adding that he adds more investigators for cases with strict timeline demands.

In the best scenario, however, investigators have time to chase all the necessary angles, gather the information they need and dig down to the truth without the pressure of unreasonable expectations.

Jake Edmiston
Jake Edmiston

Corporate Journalist

Jake Edmiston is a former Corporate Journalist at i-Sight who now writes for the Financial post.

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