Just before sunset on a hot summer day in Mexico in 2011, an SUV roared up to the factory’s entrance, and dumped the body of a young man with multiple gunshots and signs of torture in the dust.

The occupants fired shots into the air as they drove off. Three days after the factory manager provided information to the police, a letter was delivered to the facility. It threatened the factory manager and his family because he had spoken to the authorities. And it directed him to begin collecting funds to make a payoff.

The Hillard Heintze Solution

The executive team of this international corporation reached out to connections at the highest levels of U.S. federal law enforcement. “We need help. What should we be looking for?” they asked. The response was quick: a private sector provider with (1) relationships to key resources, (2) access to sources that can uncover hard-to-find intelligence, (3) senior expertise in crafting in-country options highly customized to local circumstances on the ground, and (4) command-level experience in executing plans under time pressure and operating constraints quickly and efficiently with minimal impacts to the company’s operations. Five minutes later, the corporation’s Chief Risk Officer was on the telephone with Arnette Heintze. “We understand you’re the firm that can help us in Mexico.”

Impact on the Client

Within hours, our Mexico team was in motion, with critical support provided by business intelligence analysts and research experts from the firm’s Chicago headquarters and senior security experts in Washington, D.C. in touch with their federal agency counterparts. Moving with urgency because of the risk of harm to the manager and his family, the highly coordinated international team began its investigation – reviewing the evidence, interviewing the manager and key witnesses, liaising with U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agents and analyzing intelligence.

Unplugged: The Project Manager’s Perspective

“You have to understand, addressing security issues in Mexico can present unique challenges. Nuances matter – in intelligence gathering and interpretation, in networking with in-country authorities and in crafting effective response options. “Down here, most of my time is spent on services designed for Mexico’s high-risk environment. Like executive protection and the protection of companies’ personnel and assets. Like crisis management planning – for missing or kidnapped executives. Like first-responder services – for kidnappings. The list goes on. Due diligence and employment pre-screening investigations. Product diversion and cargo hijacking investigations. And C-TPAT Facility Surveys. A lot of those.”

The ACTION WEDNESDAY Tool Box: Two Key Take-Aways

1. Establish a Relationship with a Strategic Security Advisor – Before an Event Occurs: In this case, no company personnel were harmed. But in many business environments – not just this high-risk location – there can be quite a few risks to personnel, operations and business performance that can unfold quickly. Be as prepared as possible.

2. Recognize that Crisis Responses and Investigations Often Require Extensive Liaison among U.S. and International Law Enforcement and In-Country Authorities: This liaison is often vital to resolve matters – but also can present specialized risks to the process. In Mexico, for example, corruption in government and policing organizations represents a critical factor that must be taken into account in all phases of the response.

(What’s it like on the front line supporting the firm’s clients? What are the challenges the firm’s experts help senior business executives, general counsel, board members and other decision-makers address? Welcome to ACTION WEDNESDAY. Every Wednesday, the Front Line Blog publishes a new case study.)