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Internal Investigations: Best Practices

An internal investigation is any effort to gather and analyze facts to help make a decision. Morrison & Foerster managing partner Craig Martin has overseen more than a dozen such efforts. His advice:

  • Understand the purpose of the investigation and how you will use the findings before you start.
  • Reassess scope as the investigation proceeds.  “You may start with an employee-discipline issue but then discover there’s a potential violation that requires self-reporting to regulators.”
  • You probably want the process overseen by a lawyer, whether internal or external. “If there’s a premium on independence, consider a firm with which you have no prior relationship.”
  • Pay careful attention to document gathering, which can be complex and onerous. “In particular, data-privacy laws outside the United States can introduce challenges.”
  • You’ve done it right if the facts you’ve collected position you to make a decision, and you can use those facts to defend your decision to relevant constituencies, Martin says.
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