The services we can provide are by no means limited to those highlighted in our web-site and the assets we can draw on from our network of associates are formidable. Our staff and network of associates (our “in house resources”) have accumulated a wealth of experience from conducting investigations for professional firms, family businesses, high net worth families or individuals as well as international conglomerates and governmental organisations in dozens of countries.
We are positioned to assist businesses (or individuals) with managing risk, investigations and gathering intelligence on corporate matters or persons connected thereto. Typically our clients will be professional firms (usually lawyers or accountants) acting on behalf of their clients or UK based businesses that may have a small internal audit department or none at all. Nevertheless other organisations or individuals might find some of our niche services of interest as they won’t have all the requisite expertise and experience in house. We can work as an adjunct to your normal advisers or risk management and audit teams where required.
The ancillary services we can provide may need to be deployed during an investigation as it develops. Through our in house resources we have a plethora of in depth experience of delivering all the services we offer. If we don’t have the necessary level of expertise within our in house resources we can speedily access it to deliver the required services.
So how can we help you tackle the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns relating to the business you’re contemplating buying or selling, the director you’re planning on hiring or firing or the fraud or malpractice you suspect may have happened or might be happening?
The Company is based in the UK but Faire Sans Dire has considerable experience of international investigations et al and nowadays most assignments have no boundaries. In total Faire Sans Dire has circa 120 employees and/or “associates” in most major cities and financial centres around the world. Our associates are typically overseas and specialist law firms or investigatory businesses (and their employees) with whom we have worked in the past. They are bound by confidentiality arrangements as robust as those for our employees. Were we to count our associates in terms of their employees as opposed to merely the number of businesses they represent then they would represent thousands of staff. Our employees may also be employed by our clients, related companies and associates for operational or other reasons.
In 2010, the first year since the Company opened a public web-site, its operations spanned some 55 countries, 15 of which Faire Sans Dire had previously not undertaken operations in. Prior to opening its doors to the world at large in 2010 Faire Sans Dire had established a large number of associates spanning circa 100 countries and had over the years since its formation in 1978 undertaken assignments covering in excess of eighty countries. Since 2010 those statistics have increased quite noticeably.
Faire Sans Dire has an informal advisory board to which it can turn to for expert guidance and relevant information relating to those aspects of any assignments that cause difficulties (such as where laws of different jurisdictions applicable to matters relevant to one assignment conflict or become incompatible over a period of time). The advisory board was established in the nineties but has never acted as a formal body within either Faire Sans Dire (the association or organisation) or any of its corporate entities such as Faire Sans Dire Limited.
Members of the informal advisory board are typically masters of their particular trade in a country, continent and/or cyberspace and are also often associates. For the record, they do not meet on a recurring basis, they have never all met as a “body” and, for reasons of confidentiality and as an internal check mechanism, not one of them knows who all the other advisory board members are.
Typical of the high caliber of our Advisory Board is Tony Wilson who worked at the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) for more than a decade from 2001. Tony was the SFO’s Head of International Assistance from 2005 to 2013 where he managed investigations on behalf of overseas law enforcement and other agencies. Tony joined Faire Sans Dire’s Advisory Board in May 2016.
In the ensuing explanation of our approach much emphasis is placed on dealing with criminality. The reason for that is because this is the investigatory arena in which more often than not clients make mistakes prior to any properly organised investigation having even started. Of course, such mistakes can be avoided but where they do occur they can seriously impede and/or inhibit any ensuing investigation. Hence there is much emphasis on these matters predominantly under the section below entitled Dealing with Criminality.
However, much of our work is in the provision of risk management services and undertaking due diligence or background checks not directly related to fraud or malpractice. Accordingly if the services you are interested in are not related to fraud or malpractice there is no need for you to read the section headed Dealing with Criminality set out below. If your interest is related to criminality or the like the ensuing sections of this web-page should still be of relevance to you.
Irrespective of whether or not the matters you wish us to investigate involve fraud or malpractice once you have decided you want to approach us you may want to anticipate the questions we are likely to ask so that you can explain the situation concisely and clearly. No matter what the circumstances, our questions will simply be what, who, why, where, when and how from every angle you can imagine.
Initially though, if you are exploring the possibility of using our investigatory services, our questions will focus on establishing who you are, who else is aware of the proposed investigation and under what authority you are acting.
If you wish to remain anonymous or use a pseudonym up to and including having an exploratory meeting with us that is not a problem provided you advise us of that up front. Prior to taking on any assignment (for a new client) one of our representatives will attend at least one exploratory meeting free of charge at a place of our choosing. By contacting us you are not committing yourself in anyway. For potentially major assignments Bill Fairclough, our Non-Executive Chairman, will invariably attend those meetings if in Europe or the Americas unless they are extensions of current or past assignments with existing clients.
We always start any investigation particularly if it is a fraud related assignment with the Flying Squad’s motto “ABC” ringing in our ears. ABC stands for “Assume nothing”, “Believe nobody” and “Check everything”. So do not be surprised if we ask some very basic questions before taking on any investigative assignment.
In conducting any assignment we will always strive to remain in the background when necessary and are conscious of the need not to disrupt your ongoing business operations. It is our normal practice to adhere to best practice wherever defined and applicable to the services we provide.
We will be fastidious in making sure that all aspects of the conduct of any assignment we are involved in are lawful and comply with all applicable regulations and statutes in all the relevant jurisdictions. From the outset until the conclusion of any assignment, if we even suspect that there is any grey area or borderline case as to the legitimacy of the conduct of any assignment we shall take legal advice on the relevant issues and where appropriate withdraw from the assignment with or without cause.
Normally situations warranting such a response do not occur and in most assignments reputable lawyers will more often than not somehow be involved one way or another. However, we have had experience of having to withdraw from assignments after discovering during the course of investigations information which, had we been made aware of it at the outset, would have precluded us from having taken on the assignments ab initio.
We will always agree and sign an assignment letter (a legally binding agreement) with you before starting any assignment although in dire circumstances where there is a genuine need to take immediate action we may need to agree terms in principle only and then sign the agreement later. Our agreements with clients normally comprise a tailored assignment letter to which is attached our Standard Terms and Conditions. A copy of our Standard Terms and Conditions is available to genuine prospective clients on request. Special bespoke arrangements shall apply where we provide pro bono services.
We are a niche as opposed to a major player in our chosen fields but we do see ourselves as a one stop shop. Where we do not have the expertise within our in house resources we will be the first to admit it just as we will advise you if any of the work you request of us must be undertaken by a regulated law firm or a practising accountancy firm. However, we will be able to bring alongside and seamlessly co-ordinate the requisite specialists with whom we have worked with or had contact with in the past. For example, if hand writing experts were needed to undertake scientific analysis that would stand up in court we would have to outsource that work.
If there are persuasive reasons to have either a firm of lawyers and/or accountants involved in the assignment we will be happy to work alongside your existing advisers. However, in the past we have often found it better to use independent firms (if there is a compelling reason to have to involve them in the first place). It is noteworthy that where malpractice or fraud features in any investigation it may prove an embarrassment to existing professional advisers particularly where auditors are concerned and they may be working to a different agenda to that which is in your best interests.
Generally if there is a need for an independent law firm or accountancy practice to be involved we prefer working with those we know well. We will invariably be able to obtain rates advantageous to you without compromising the quality of advice given or work undertaken. However, we are not inflexible in this regard. Similar considerations apply to appointing experts to undertake work that we are unable to provide through our in house resources.
The Company is not a practising law firm, is not regulated by the Law Society and does not provide legal advice or hold itself out to be a law firm providing legal services. Where we comment or opine on matters of a legal or contractual nature, the law and related issues we are expressing our opinion and not providing legal advice. Accordingly any such opinions should not be relied upon as such and where necessary clients should take legal advice from either their own in house professionally qualified solicitors or lawyers or from a regulated law firm or practice that is authorised to provide legal advice and establish a “solicitor/client” relationship.
Under normal circumstances we will never approach any third party whether anonymously, using a pseudonym or in our own name during the course of any assignment whether or not it is fraud related without first having cleared it with you; where appropriate we will ask for blanket clearances (for example to contact all your co-directors or your business’s professional advisers).
During the course of assignments concerning fraud or malpractice, information can sometimes be discreetly obtained from the most unexpected sources. Typical sources of evidence may include former employees, disaffected family members and normal business contacts such as vendors or customers. On occasion those providing the evidence have no idea how important their statements are, what they really mean or that the evidence they have forms the crucial missing piece of a complex jigsaw puzzle.
Where required we will use the latest available reliable technology including video/audio recording techniques during the course of assignments in relation to: our own reports to you; analysing data on your computers or communication networks including mobile phones; and deploying surveillance and/or counter-surveillance.
We always take into account the acceptability of the technology we deploy in any ongoing criminal, civil or employment tribunal proceedings and in potential proceedings however remote the likelihood of such. You should be aware that what is and is not acceptable or indeed lawful varies depending upon the country or jurisdiction within which we operate or within which legal proceedings, if any, are pursued.
In addition we are experienced in the recovery of data which has been intentionally wiped off, hidden or deleted on most electronic devices such as computers or mobile phones no matter what make or how old the devices are. We can break through encrypted and password protection barriers as well as locate data hidden on computer hard drives etc.
We can evaluate whether or not any evidence used against you has been tampered with thereby rendering it null and void for use in court. We can check to see if it has been otherwise falsified and trace hidden electronic finger prints to prove and demonstrate the timings of such manipulative and deceptive practices thereby forming the bases of strong counter claims.
We pride ourselves as being as good as the best in what we do and, notwithstanding that, our charge out rates are but a small fraction of those of, for example, much larger firms who offer similar services. Once when at a meeting with a well known firm of solicitors we were asked what our charge out rates were. On being told what they were there was what seemed to be a long period of silence; maybe they just could not believe their ears. Nevertheless, they hired us for the assignment we were discussing at the time and have hired us since on many occasions.
We always agree a limit to the extent of our fees and costs for any assignment and if we get near that we discuss what we should do next with the client ahead of reaching that limit. For example, we might agree that a fair price for undertaking a series of background checks on an individual and certain of his associates might be say £3,500.00 so we would advise you once we had reached £3,000.00 in fees and costs so as to prioritise what final steps we were to take in order to stay within budget. Furthermore, if you asked us to delve into someone’s background for negative information and say within three hours we had discovered that the subject of our enquiry was a disqualified director in some far away country we would advise you at once and down tools until instructed otherwise rather than unnecessarily look for other negative facts when what we had already discovered was enough for your purposes.
Fees charged are calculated on the basis of the time spent and reflect the levels of skill, experience, knowledge and/or responsibility of those required to undertake the work as well as the nature, complexity and urgency of the work involved. Daily or hourly rates are applied pro rata to periods of time of less than one day or one hour respectively.
Our charge out rates for time spent by certain individuals may vary considerably depending upon the nature of the work undertaken by each of them thus for certain tasks an individual may be charged out at one rate for desk top research, another rate for interviewing and other rates for other tasks.
This policy invariably proves very cost effective for our clients because unlike other providers of investigative and related services we acknowledge that just because one of our senior staff happens to be travelling or undertaking administrative tasks the cost to you should be either close to zero or certainly far lower than when he is involved in providing services that require his special skills, experience and knowledge. Unlike virtually every firm we know of that we would class as a competitor we apply de minimus rates for time spent travelling and on administrative tasks and we don’t load up our normal rates to compensate for this. Where we adopt a time charge basis we will keep you advised of the time and expenses we are clocking up on the basis that suits you. We even provide (lengthy) records of the searches we have undertaken by computer and/or on the phone if requested to do so.
We are prepared to consider accepting assignments based on a project fee basis or even a quasi “no win no fee” basis. We are flexible and innovative so if you want to discuss alternative fee charging arrangements to our normal charge out rates based on time spent we are open to such discussions. Significant volume discounts apply for recurring work.
We sometimes refer to our modus operandi or business as being “not for profit”. By that we mean that we build in no profit element into our charge out rates. In other words what you pay for our services generates no profit for our business and is the equivalent of what you would pay were our staff your employees. In contrast, accountancy, forensic, legal and other service firms usually compute their charge out rates by adding together staff/partner salaries/costs plus overheads and then topping that up by 50 per cent for profit: ie they typically charge one third for staff/partner salaries, one third for overheads and one third for profits. As our overheads are so low all you pay for are what you would pay us were we full time or interim employees.
On occasions, for example in the case of registered charities or elderly/vulnerable individuals, we may be prepared to assist victims of fraud or corruption on a quasi “no win no fee” basis and/or at peppercorn charge out rates.
Unless requested not to do so, we normally submit a report at the end of each assignment of all our findings which may include matters that we consider you should be aware of that have come to our attention during an assignment but are not directly related to that assignment. Sometimes those findings may just be observations made during the course of attending your premises (such as lapses or holes in your systems security or physical security arrangements). However, it is not uncommon for us to discover a critical piece of information that our clients had no idea of which is more useful for their purposes than the results of the specific instructions we were given.
Whenever possible and practical Faire Sans Dire will try and ensure that independent reviews of its final reports are undertaken (prior to their submission to clients) by staff and/or associates who have not been involved in the assignments. This form of quality control helps to minimise the possibility of erroneous reporting which sadly we see all too often as we are on occasion asked to check other investigators’ reports. For example, in one report we reviewed, the alleged money launderer for a terrorist organisation turned out to be a philanthropist donating lawfully to an obscure religion via tax havens to ensure his donations were tax efficient.
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) in the USA estimates that fraud costs at least 5% (circa a minimum of US$3.5 trillion) of the “Gross World Product” estimates of which range from US$70 trillion to US$110 trillion; for further information please visit www.acfe.com. There is no similar comparable analysis of data in the UK although the latest available data made available by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) suggests that a reasonable comparable estimate could be between 7% and 10%. All these statistics (and those quoted later) are not susceptible to proof but are indicative and logically determined.
Thus statistically it is argued by many that anywhere between 5% and 10% of all the revenue generated by businesses is lost as a result of corruption and/or fraud. More importantly, even just half that as a percentage of revenue is a material amount to most businesses when looked at as a percentage of after tax profits. As regards the UK interesting data on this topic is available from the National Fraud Authority via the Attorney General’s Office at www.lslo.gov.uk.
So, do you know what fraud may be costing your business? Do you know who is most likely to be embezzling your business? The answer to the first question must start with “I don’t know” and the answer to the second question is startling.
Statistically at least 50% of frauds are orchestrated by people who have worked in the same business for between five and ten years; ie the very people you expect to trust the most. What is more, but not unsurprisingly, the longer the length of their service and the higher their level of authority the larger the frauds they commit and the longer the frauds pass undetected.
Again it will come as no surprise that only about 50% of frauds are exposed as a result of the imposition of good risk management and internal controls because the very people entrusted to combat abuse are the fraudsters themselves. As has been the case year in year out normally about 50% of all frauds detailed in the public domain are stumbled upon by chance or as a result of a tip-off, a hunch or reported suspicion (for example by a whistleblower).
If one were to draw up a profile of the typical fraudster it would be of a male aged between 35 and 50 who had been to college or university. He would have been employed by the same business for between five and ten years, achieved managerial status and either worked in or had some form of access to the accounting records and be either in financial difficulty or living beyond his means.
One recurring observation from the ACFE annual reports over the last decade or so about the most usual type of corporate victim is worthy of note: “Small businesses are especially vulnerable to occupational fraud.” Indeed “small businesses” suffer disproportionately from “occupational fraud”. Small businesses are defined as organizations with fewer than 100 employees. (Occupational fraud means the use of one’s occupation for personal enrichment through the deliberate misuse of or misapplication of the employing organization’s resources or assets.)
If you suspect or have evidence of a fraud or financial crime having been perpetrated, before you even approach us, you should consider whether or not you should report the matter of concern to the police. Sadly nowadays the police in the UK are not always eager to help with fraud related matters and will turn them away on the grounds that they constitute commercial disputes or even matrimonial matters! Nevertheless it should be given serious consideration. As for other jurisdictions the response of the police to dealing with fraud varies considerably; we can but won’t name those countries whose law enforcement agencies even though part of Interpol consider boiler room frauds to be simply bad investment decisions.
You may need to take legal advice on whether or not to report the matter of concern to the police for, say, insurance purposes. There are many organisations including the police themselves whereby you can do that anonymously if for any reason you decide that to confide in your normal professional advisers would be inappropriate.
If you approach your solicitors or accountants about a suspected or actual fraud or financial crime you should be aware that in the UK they may have to report what you tell them to the National Crime Agency (NCA) as required by the law and regulations pertaining to money laundering and proceeds of crime. They are not permitted to disclose to you whether or not they have reported what you have disclosed to them as it would constitute a criminal offence per se known as “tipping off”. Thus you will never know for sure whether or not the NCA have been informed or indeed, if they have been, what they are doing about it in conjunction with other authorities.
In very broad terms in the UK if you report an actual or suspected fraud or financial crime to your accountants or auditors they are normally legally bound to report it to the NCA. If you report an actual or suspected fraud or financial crime to your solicitors it may be covered by legal privilege and where that is the case they are not obliged to report the matter to the NCA. However, that is solely at their discretion and some firms of solicitors have policies whereby they report all matters to the NCA that would require reporting to the NCA were they not subject to legal privilege. Furthermore, if you ask them what their policy is they won’t tell you as it might constitute tipping off.
We are not regulated like firms of solicitors or accountants and are not similarly obliged by law to report matters to the NCA other than if they relate to terrorism or the use of illicit drugs. However, if you are a Director of a company in the UK you should not overlook your duties under the Companies Act 2006 to make all the required disclosures to your auditors if the issues that concern you could materially affect any of your company’s statutory accounts that have not yet been finalised and signed off along with any letters of representation your auditors will want from you.
Incidentally, just because you personally are not a signatory to the accounts or letters of representation is no defence if problems arise later. Not dissimilar considerations apply to other organisations such as charities where audits are required of their financial statements.
We would like to give you some elementary advice. We apologise if you don’t need it! Always choose how you make contact us with care and only tell those who really need to know what you are doing.
If you are contemplating contacting us to assist you with investigating fraud, malpractice, criminality or about counter-surveillance please do not do what we have seen on many occasions and inadvertently announce to those you want investigating that you are approaching somebody to investigate them. You would not believe how many times people call investigators and say “I think my phone may be tapped” or send emails saying “We believe John Smith, one of our IT staff, is up to no good etc”.
Try to avoid putting anything in writing and if you do so, do it with care. There may be many reasons for this. First and foremost the very person you want investigating or researching may be reasonably senior in your organisation and may already be suspicious or concerned that he or she may be subject to investigation. For all you know he or she may have instructed your systems administrator to watch out for any “scurrilous” emails about him or her or even already have administrator level access to everyone’s personal email accounts. Similar considerations apply if your organisation normally records telephone calls on its communications network.
In addition there is always the ever present danger of lawsuits against you personally or your business for defamation. In any event if court proceedings ensue as a result of an investigation or the like the legal process called discovery may result in your having to hand over to the suspect’s lawyers all the embarrassing emails you and your colleagues wrote about the suspect.
In these litigious days you cannot afford to make assumptions and your suspect may, for example, have even started a rumour about himself with the premeditated intent of taking you to task for wrongful dismissal and, after having won that case, suing you for defamation. There are many stalkers out there who prey on businesses just to be rewarded for concocted ageism, racism and similar claims but they are merely the enemy outside the gate and not as well placed as your employees to set you up.
Finally, confide in as few people as possible. If you suspect fraud/malpractice is taking place, without having thoroughly investigated it first you will have no idea how many people are involved or aware of it. The more people you confide in the greater the risk of inadvertently tipping off either one of a gang of culprits or even if only one fraudster is involved that person. Human beings all like knowing secrets as it gives them a feeling of superiority. Many who hold secrets get a buzz out of telling others so as to show off their power and knowledge. Hence secrets rarely remain such for long other than in the hands of those who are detached from the arena to which those secrets pertain.