Who is that masked invoice?
The work that we do is generally very confidential. Indeed, we are so concerned with confidentiality that none of our offices have listed phone numbers or listings in the building directories (a policy which I must confess we are currently re-considering), and our phones are answered simply with a cheery “hello!” Sometimes this confidentiality extends to invoices.
Traditionally, invoices spell out what was done, and, in many cases, it spells this out in great detail. As it turns out, however, there are certain cases in which this is not a prudent approach. This is because the invoice is not processed by the people for whom we do the work, and, in many cases, the people processing the invoices really shouldn’t know, for example, the name of the company or individual on whom we did an investigation. While the good folks in accounts payable have to pay the bill, if they knew even the gross details of what was done, they would have information they didn’t need to know, and which, if it were discussed, might have unfortunate consequences.
Another example is one in which we move valuable commodities from one place to another. If we move, say something worth $100,000,000 from one place to another, a lot of money is likely to go into pre-paid expenses, so we need a bunch of money up front. If the people processing the invoices have too much information, the operation – dangerous under the best of circumstances – becomes even more dangerous. As with insurance, as discussed above, we really don’t want a paper trail that can be bought and sold, or elicited.
Now, you may think that it is unlikely that anyone would be looking for this kind of information, or that anyone in your accounting office would either sell information or discuss it. And that may be true, but if $100,000,000, the lives of a dozen people, and a very fancy plane are at stake, or if a deal worth hundreds of millions might be jeopardized, it is not worth the risk. And, unfortunately, if dealing with a person trained in elicitation, the likelihood of anyone not volunteering the information lies in the slim-to-none category, particularly if the sensitivity of the information has not been identified.