Leveraging Corporate Investigators in Asset Recovery

Asset recovery can be critical to success in a legal action or dispute, though it is often an area prone to misconceptions from clients and legal counsel.  

In this webinar hosted by SFC Swiss Forensic & Compliance, Control Risks’ Associate Director Lorna Van Oss, along with investigators from SFC and Mintz Group, and lawyers from Three Verulam Buildings and Mourant discuss when you should engage with an investigator and how best to leverage their expertise.  

Below is an edited excerpt of the conversation. For a full discussion of how lawyers can leverage investigators, as well as a view on recent developments in their practice, you can watch the webinar on demand by clicking on the button below.

 When to use investigators  

It is never too early to involve investigators, who can provide critical insight to all types of disputes. When it comes to asset recovery, it can be difficult to convince clients of the need to bring in an investigative team at an early stage. Budget is a priority, and with disputes typically seen as a discretionary spend, clients often prefer to allocate resources to winning their dispute first before thinking about an enforcement plan.  

One of the clear benefits of early involvement is being able to assess a counterparty’s assets and how they’re structured to quickly ascertain whether it is worth pursuing a claim. There may be instances, when investigating a counterparty’s assets at an early stage will show there is nothing viable to enforce against, or that it is not worth the fees and effort of enforcing in a particular jurisdiction.  

Ultimately, engaging investigators at an early stage allows you to identify and locate assets that you will enforce against at a later stage, which is critical to informing your legal strategy. Having a clear picture of the counterparty’s assets will ultimately influence how you’re going to proceed.  

How do investigators leverage their skills?  

Professional investigators have a wide range of resources and experience, enabling them to take a broad perspective on matters. Control Risks’ long-standing history in carrying out corporate investigations means that we have decades worth of resources that are essential to any investigator, from specific databases to source networks.  

Other skills are essential to an investigator:   

  • Our experience means that we usually have a good idea of what we're looking for, and where we're likely to find it. We also use this experience to sense when something seems awry or unusual. This is the thread that we’ll end up pulling, to unravel complex holding structures and find the assets we’re looking for.
  • Being able to understand the local language and how business is typically done in a specific jurisdiction or country is a resource that law firms don’t always have in-house.
  • Time is critical for an investigator, and we have technology at our fingertips which allows us to conduct research most efficiently. These might be the tools we use to search a corporate registry by the name of the beneficial owner, or technology that allows us to quickly locate a subject’s social media account with just an email address.
  • We rely on having excellent networks. For us, these networks are human sources with whom we have personal relationships, developed over time. Leveraging these networks can help us to crack a case quickly and get beyond what’s available in the public domain.
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    Working with a global team of investigators 

    When you're putting together a team of investigators, it’s important to ensure it is one that can combine their investigative expertise with local insight and knows the best approach and methods in any given jurisdiction, whether that’s accessing land ownership records or retrieving corporate records.  

    Every jurisdiction is different, and you can’t assume that engaging a team in one single country is the most effective way of solving a case. Asset tracing is, by its very nature, multi-jurisdictional and a case may begin in Hong Kong, transition to the UK and then end up in Cyprus. Your team should approach cases with a multi-jurisdictional perspective and be ready to pivot and adapt quickly across regions. 

    For more on this discussion, watch the full webinar on demand now.