With the spirit of the holidays, one of my favorite parts of the season is here:  cocktail parties!  Along with the great drinks and chatter with friends and family, it is also an opportunity to meet new people.  When talking with new acquaintances, one question always seems to pop up: “What do you do for a living?” For someone like my wife, who is an elementary school teacher, the question is relatively easy to answer, and the person’s response is what you would expect, “Oh, that’s great!  What age?”

But When the Answer is “Investigations…”

When you work in corporate investigations, it is a little harder to explain exactly what you do. People’s reaction to your answer often comes back in a few different ways. Some say, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and slowly walk away, thinking you are about to interrogate them. Others give you a sort of a wink and a nod, implying, “I got ya… You have already said too much,” or others respond, “So, do you catch cheaters?”

The Truth? It’s Much More Complex

In truth, the work we do is not even in the same ballpark as the first response.  And, as far as the second response, although we try to remain discreet on behalf of our clients, the information we provide is most often discovered through public records, an analysis of information voluntarily provided to us and through interviews with (always) willing individuals, and it is always both legal and ethically derived.  And, sorry, as exciting as going out catching cheaters would be, that is too much drama for our group.

Modern Day Sherlock Holmes

Instead, most of us here love to research public records and open source information, analyze it and provide that intelligence to our clients in a great report. All of which is done from a safe distance from any lover’s quarrel. Although many members of our team have worked in various capacities in law enforcement where, with a warrant, they could get their hands on information like phone records and bank accounts, that information is limited to government officials. While many clients ask us if we can get this sort of information, in the private sector, an individual’s right to privacy trumps our need for information. Like my teammate, Rebecca, wrote about a few weeks ago, we don’t even have the ability to search an individual in NCIC, the government’s national criminal database.

Although the proper response to “what I do for a living” should be something more along the lines of, “provide transparency to business deals, help parties make better decisions during litigation and help individuals and businesses monitor and assess threats through publicly available information,” that response seems a little long-winded. So, I think I’ll stick with the corporate investigations response and hope they give me the wink and nod and let me enjoy my drink…speaking of which, I think it’s time to head over to our company party. Cheers!