Why we may not be able to talk to you after you hire us
In many cases involving the recovery of missing assets, whether because of fraud, theft, or divorce, the proceedings tend to become quite adversarial. This should come as no surprise, because people steal money in order to keep it for themselves, not with the intention of giving it back. And in divorces, animosity often runs so high as to preclude any rational sense of fair play.
The process of recovery is made more difficult by the fact that the adversary more often than not has a lot of money, while you may have relatively little. This happens in the case of fraud and theft if the bad guy has stolen most of your disposable income. It happens in the case of divorce when your spouse works and has control of the assets, and you don’t. This last is all too frequently complicated by the fact that attorneys tend to start looking for assets much too late in the game, by which time they have already spent much of the money that should have been available for the investigation.
The problem has two components.
First, if you don’t have money to pursue your missing assets, the bad guy will be able to keep them with impunity.
If they have a LOT of assets and yours are more modest, they still have a lot of options. As an example, in one case on which we worked, a father had left his estate with the family attorney in trust for the children. The attorney, being no fool, realized that he had $750 million dollars in his control and the children had only what he gave them, which went from very little to nothing. When the children tried to get outside help they were met with threats, attempted homicides, and all sorts of legal roadblocks. (You can buy an awful lot of judges and cops when you have three quarters of a billion dollars at your disposal.) Rumor had it that the attorney realized it was just as effective to have us killed as to kill the children. In this case, although we felt we were approaching a point where the case could be turned over to the Feds, the children chose to drop the case rather than continue to tempt fate.
Second, even in cases where the participants don’t consider homicide to be a reasonable option, merely delaying things can be a worthwhile investment. If, for example, a husband has $20 million hidden away, and can spend $100 thousand to delay action for a year, he will still be $900,000 ahead even if he only makes five percent on his money. This delay and the cost to the relatively impoverished wife may be enough to make her settle for a pittance.
A common technique that we see is for the adversary to file complaints against the investigators (that would be us!) in order to deplete resources from the plaintiff as a means to avoid having to defend against this legal attack. Since there is no such thing as investigator-client privilege, we can be forced into court and made to reveal all our information, which would be very helpful to the bad guy and very detrimental to our client.
Because of this, in cases where there is even the tiniest hint that this might be an issue, we work directly for the attorney, and have no contact with the client other than through the attorney. What we do is thus work product for the attorney – and is labeled as such – and is protected by attorney-client privilege. Since we do nothing for the client we have nothing that can be disclosed, and, thus, nothing that can be revealed in court. Anything the opposition wants they must try to get from the attorney, not from us, and that is protected by attorney-client privilege.
While this represents a significant protection for the client, it can also be a minor frustration that we may not be able to directly speak each with the other. In this case, however, it has been clearly demonstrated, time and again, that the benefit far and away outweighs the annoyance.