It’s every leader’s nightmare to suspect an employee of fraud. If someone has spotted questionable transactions or called a whistleblower hotline, you’ll need to enlist financial and legal advisors to handle the bulk of the investigation. Before they begin, though, you may need to interview some key people to capture information before memories fade. You may even find a good explanation that rules out fraud.
Gather information and prepare for the investigators
Before requesting any meetings, decide what information you’re looking for. Knowing what you’re looking for helps you get to the truth quickly and avoid getting sidetracked by red herrings. Then identify who can supply the information you need.
For example, you may suspect an accounts receivable employee of siphoning money. You could talk to that person’s supervisor and a member of your IT department to get information on work habits, unusual behavior or signs of file tampering. Remember, though, that people may be reluctant to share information if they feel it reflects poorly on them or it might land someone else in hot water.
Just the facts, please
When you sit down for an interview, set the tone with some introductory questions and ask for the interviewee’s agreement to cooperate. In most cases, you’ll be looking for information to prove or disprove your suspicions, and the interview will be fact-finding in nature. It should last long enough for you to obtain all the information the subject has to offer, but don’t prolong sessions unnecessarily. Finally, be sure to document the conversations carefully, either by recording them or in writing, and noting the time, date and participants in all interviews.
Aim for an informal, relaxed conversation and be sure to remain professional, calm and nonthreatening. Don’t interrupt, suggest that you have preconceived ideas about who did what, or assert your authority unnecessarily. If you suspect someone is withholding information, ask more detailed, specific questions. And if someone says something you believe is untrue, ask for clarification. You might suggest that your question was misunderstood or that the employee didn’t give it enough thought before answering.
Finally, never make threats or promises to encourage an employee to change a statement or confess. If the case ends up in court, such tactics could make the evidence you collect inadmissible. If someone persists in lying, ask them to put their statement in writing and sign it. Then turn the statement — and your suspicions — over to experienced fraud investigators.
Interview, don’t interrogate
Finding evidence of fraud is bad enough. Turning interviews into interrogations will only make matters worse and could hinder your ability to pursue and punish fraud offenders.
Weaver has a forensic accounting and litigation support group with years of experience conducting investigations, preparing evidentiary documentation and serving as expert witnesses in litigation. If you have reason to suspect a problem or would like to discuss an issue with our team, please contact us.