Fox in the Hen House? Why Background Checks on Key Personnel Are Vital

Ana Nieves

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Aug 25, 2022

One of organizations' most overlooked security practices is appropriately scoped investigations into the backgrounds, credentials and past activities of individuals who hold positions of trust. Some entities undertake careful and systematic investigations as a matter of policy, but many do not. These investigations are conducted too infrequently and too often focus on the wrong personnel or are not designed to reflect the organization’s risks and objectives.

Hiring A Position of Trust? Best To Learn About Who They Are First

As with any major hiring decision, engaging the right individual for a position of trust requires accurate information. Fundamentally, whom you come to rely upon creates a strategic risk to your organization, regardless of whether you are a nonprofit or engage in commercial business. Key individuals essential to an organization’s performance, budget and brand (i.e., the face of the company) should always undergo a background investigation prior to hiring. Investigations are even more important when that person occupies a position of trust.

Leverage Experts Who “Know Where to Look”

I’ve spent virtually my entire career in this space. My colleagues and team members – investigators and research analysts – specialize in transactional and corporate due diligence services in the U.S. and around the world. We uncover critical information before hiring personal assistants and household staff or committing to new business opportunities and financial advisors. We conduct discreet research into public records to verify disclosures made by these individuals. We identify any discrepancies that may disqualify them from serving in sensitive positions of trust and influence in the organization and help assure that such individuals do not risk the company’s reputation or bottom line.

Start with Your Risks And Objectives

One of our clients engages us to vet individuals seeking approval to serve as trusted advisors to professional athletes. In such cases, unsavory individuals could misrepresent their credentials and either provide poor counseling to the client-athletes or commit fraud. While many of the individuals we vet are qualified and honest professionals, some are not.

A common fraud scheme is to set up a nest of related companies in a way that conceals ownership and control. They then entice the client-athlete to invest in these at inflated valuations. To guard against this, we look for undisclosed businesses, partnerships and associations that could present red flags. Examples of other nefarious tactics include falsified educational or professional credentials, often from unaccredited institutions, or criminal records that are not easily accessible through commercial databases.

Is This Person Right for Us?

Vetting positions of trust is complex and involves more than just a quick check for criminal charges. To answer the question, “is this person right for us,” a more detailed investigation is required. An intensive review of criminal records, civil litigation records, financial data and regulatory violations is in order. These types of checks can involve:

  • Submitting public records requests to law enforcement.
  • Obtaining copies of court files from PACER, or a state or local courthouse.
  • Doing deep dive credit checks.
  • Conducting interviews with sources, including past employers, educational institutions and social contacts.

In addition to our traditional background check capabilities, we often work closely with our robust open-source intelligence investigative team. Open-source intelligence is information that is easily and publicly accessible. It can include:

  • Social media postings.
  • Websites owned or operated by the subject.
  • Online forum postings.
  • Photos and videos.

Due Diligence Pays

I’ve never completed an investigation for a client that they regretted. Why? Because the importance of this preventative measure isn’t just in finding malicious actors or professionals with problematic histories. The real value is even greater. These investigations provide clients and their many stakeholders, from board members to beneficiaries, with the assurance that every in-house person with whom they interact is worthy of trust.

Our experts can assist with background investigations in your organization. Click here to learn more.