Financial shenanigans are, well, financial in nature, and can be fairly subtle. Think back to Superman III, where a low paid junior programmer (Richard Pryor) has stolen money from a bank by transferring the fractional-penny rounding errors to himself. Robert Vaughn despairs of finding a thief that clever until Pryor screeches into the parking lot in his expensive race car. While we can find phantom employees by looking for employees who receive no health care benefits, we can’t do this by listening to a narrative of how people are paid.
As financial investigators looking for concealed assets we often start by performing an audit on whatever records exist – and there are always records – trying to find where in the flow of funds money might have disappeared. It is a painstaking task, often akin to looking for a needle in a haystack. Records often produce not only answers, but questions that need to be asked, which in turn lead to answers.
If we are not lucky enough to have documents readily available in the hands of the client, we can develop a case without them by finding them elsewhere. It is a more cumbersome – and more costly – process, but it can be done, particularly with the help of subpoenas.
We sometimes encounter unwillingness among smaller clients and their counsel to allow us to come and examine information they fortuitously have at hand. This is because they simply don’t understand the process. They are on a limited budget compared to corporate clients, and don’t want to spend the money that it costs to bring us in, have us put in the time examining the documents, and then send us back. They would rather we just phone in whatever questions we might have.
Unfortunately, even when we talk with a knowledgeable client, their answers to our questions are never as accurate and consistent as the financial records they are trying to describe, and may not spur us to ask the questions that need to be asked. This means that we often end up going out into the field to uncover a bit of intelligence, only to have the client tell us that they already knew that.
The bottom line is that finding concealed assets is a tricky business at best, and the best money-saving strategy involves the most appropriate use of all available information.