Cops moonlighting as investigators
One of our competitors was hired by an attorney who had a client that had suffered the theft from its computers of a list of all of their key employees. The list ended up in the hands of an executive recruiting firm. When cornered, the executive recruiting firm agreed to turn over the list, as well as to allow a computer expert to make an image of their disk and perform some other investigative work, tied to their network.
Our competitor hired a computer forensics expert with the required skills, who concurrently employed in a branch of federal law enforcement. The outside expert did excellent work, discovering that a number of other companies had also been compromised. The president of the client company therefore assembled the stolen information obtained from his competitors, and began the process of calling the CEOs of the other companies to turn over what he had, along with a detailed description of what had happened.
Some days later the attorney for the client called and wanted to know why the lawyers of several other high tech firms (who also had a list of their key employees purloined by the same executive recruiting firm) were calling.
Unbeknownst to the attorney or the investigator, the outside expert – investigator for hire by night; cop by day – had called the other firms whose list of key employees he had found on the network. When confronted with this, the outside expert claimed that, as a federal law enforcement officer he had a “duty to inform any victim of the theft.”
We do not know if this duty to disclose is, in fact, true. Or how this violation of attorney client privilege will weigh in when the case goes to court, which is were it is now heading.
The “expert person” violated attorney client privilege and alerted all of the client’s competitors to the theft of the employee directory. As a DOD contractor, the client may lose some business since the expert’s blabby description of events when calling competitors also violated no small number of trade secrets.
So, if you want to hire an investigator who may use a moonlighting sworn law enforcement office, be forewarned of possible consequences.
We feel great sympathy for the owner of the investigative firm since this event will probably cause them to shut their doors.