Internal Investigation Procedures (Part I of IV)

by Michael Volkov

This is the first of four postings on internal investigations.  The focus of these postings is not the high-profile internal investigations which are regularly disclosed to the SEC or reported in the press.  Instead, I am focusing on “routine” or day-to-day internal investigations which are conducted to handle a variety of issues. 

The art of day-to-day internal investigations has been ignored in favor of media reports on high-profile, high-stakes internal investigations.  Do not get me wrong, there is a time and place for important internal investigations.  But companies need to plan in advance for conducting routine internal investigations which occur on a regular basis.

Every compliance program needs to include a basic protocol for handling day-to-day internal investigations.  Internal investigation procedures need to be in place to handle day-to-day issues which arise when employees are alleged to have violated company rules or codes of conduct.  Such a protocol will protect a company from subsequent challenges of unfairness or failure to investigate allegations of misconduct. 

The elements of an internal investigation program include:

1.  Written Internal Investigation Policy – this document should be used to explain allegations which can trigger an internal investigation, the process for conducting the investigation and the handling of investigation results.  Internal investigations are not limited to employment matters but include a range of issues involving employee misconduct. 

A written policy informs employees what to expect from the process and emphasizes the company’s commitment to fairness.  It should describe how an investigation is started, how the investigation is conducted, proper documentation, how a decision is reached and communicated.

2.  Objective Investigator – the investigator must be qualified and independent, meaning the investigator is objective.  The investigator should be trained or experienced in conducting investigations.  If necessary, an external expert should be used.  If the investigator is biased, or conducts the investigation in a biased manner, then the investigation will provide little protection and may even cost the company in litigation

3.  Timely Investigations – internal investigations need to be conducted in a timely manner to enhance the perception of fairness.  Delay can be interpreted as motivated by a desire to brush an issue under the rug.  Therefore, investigations should be completed as soon as possible after a complaint is filed, or the potential misconduct is discovered.  In routine cases which are not very complex, an investigation should be completed and resolved within thirty (30) days.  Some investigations, such as those involving complicated issues like harassment or theft, should take longer. 

4.  Interviews – an internal investigation should include witness interviews.  It does not mean that every possible witness has to be interviewed.  The investigator should interview every witness who has relevant information to the accusation, or who may be important to determine the credibility of a critical witness or the suspect.   If there is a complainant, the investigator should interview him or her early in the investigation to determine the nature of the allegations.  After the investigator learns more about the case, the investigator should interview the complainant again so as to evaluate the complainant’s credibility against all of the evidence.  

5.  Evidence Evaluation – an internal investigation is only as good as its evidence.  It has to be thorough and fair.  Hearsay has no role in internal investigations.  Allegations must be documented and resolved based on reliable evidence.  If a company acts based on hearsay or other unreliable evidence, the company’s integrity will be destroyed.   Similarly, if a company fails to conduct a thorough investigation and ignores significant evidence, the internal investigation will not protect the company.   

6.  Documentation – every step in the internal investigation should be documented.  The fairness of every investigation depends on the written record which establishes the steps taken by the company, and the reasons for its decision.  A written record is essential to protect the company. 

7.  Information Security – information gathered during an investigation has to be secure and strictly controlled.  Reckless disclosure of information causes rumors, damages productivity, and creates liability for the company and the investigator.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Michael Volkov, The Volkov Law Group | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Michael Volkov

The Volkov Law Group on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.