A senior trader of a global commodities merchant in London was suspected to have been complicit in the payment of bribes to government officials in a Northern African country. The bribes were alleged to have been to facilitate business opportunities and receive preferential treatment in the region.
It was not clear to the client and their external counsel whether the suspicions had validity. As such, they required an independent investigation of the issue to establish whether there was any evidence to substantiate the claim.
Stroz Friedberg mobilised a team of experts to identify and recover pertinent source records and preserve them for the investigation. These included relevant user data such as electronic devices, email correspondence and phone records, as well as large amounts of related financial records. Over 300GB of data, or approximately 900,000 files relating to four employees was recovered, processed, de-duplicated and hosted on Stroz Friedberg’s proprietary eDiscovery platform.
An extensive review of this data was then conducted using a customised team of investigators and a targeted approach. A creative mind-set was applied to filter through evidence sources and data with evolving search strings and algorithms. This both streamlined and focused the team’s attention whilst ensuring appropriate coverage.
Alongside this review, the team conducted a forensic analysis of affected contracts and their relative structures, commercial substance and underlying payment mechanisms. An in depth review of transactions linked to the employee and these contracts with hard copy corroborating records such as receipts or authorisation requests were also extracted where appropriate. The team took appropriate covert measures to ensure discretion throughout the matter. This was critical given the level of seniority involved and risk of reputational damage.
The client was provided with evidence of the bribery arrangements, the mechanics of the fraud, and the evolution of these activities over a period of seven years and the extent of knowledge of these practices amongst senior officers of the company. As a result the client and Counsel were able to evaluate their reporting requirements to the UK authorities pursuant to the UK Bribery Act.
Stroz Friedberg’s streamlined review approach and combination of investigative expertise produced the most relevant ‘smoking gun’ evidence to external counsel in a short space of time. This saved the client both time and money whilst still ensuring stringent investigative and evidential processes to meet legal and regulatory obligations.
The matter remained confidential with only a handful of necessary individuals in the circle of knowledge. This ensured the suspects, other employees and investors remained unaware of the investigation, minimising the risk of data destruction, reputational damage and business interruption.