Dealing with an FCPA violation is never easy. It’s a task that can be even more difficult when the person investigating isn’t sure how to even go about it. Investigative interviewing isn’t a skill that you’re born with. Instead, it’s one that you acquire through practice.

The problem is, the last thing that people want to practice is investigating their own employees for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. If you’re newer to these situations, you can take some tips from the experts on how to conduct an investigative interview. Investigative interviews are frequently used by journalists and law enforcement personnel to get to the facts of a matter. They’re not used quite as much in the private sector, where those involved might be more familiar with basic interviewing techniques used in hiring and promotions. However, investigative interviewing skills can be adapted for use in the financial arena, if you make some basic modifications.

What is Investigative Interviewing?

The first thing you need to know about investigative interviewing is that it’s not an interrogation. When you’re in an informal setting, you don’t want to create an “us against them” situation which will cause the person being interviewed to shut down. You need to err on the side of being non-accusatory for the best results. There are a few basic interview styles that may be used, depending on the situation:

  • Cognitive – A cognitive interview is one that’s designed to gain information from witnesses to an incident by asking them basic questions. Mainly, this type of interview focuses on asking the person questions they already know the answer to, and then moving into more complex questions that they might not have a specific memory of. By linking the events together, this can trigger information that the witness wasn’t aware was valuable at the time.
  • Direct Accusation – A direct accusation interview is the exact opposite of a cognitive interview in that you are directly accusing someone of something and asking follow-up questions regarding this. This type of interview is rarely used unless the individual involved is evasive and there’s already strong evidence that they committed the offense.
  • Kinesic Interviewing – Kinesic interviewing involves not just listening to the interviewee’s answers, but also watching them for physical signs that may give more away. It’s a study of body language in relation to their answers. However, this is also an interview technique that can easily be misconstrued and lead to false flags, so it’s best only used by the most experienced of investigators.
  • Participatory Interviewing – This is useful in investigating employee issues. Basically, the interviewer asks the person to answer general questions about company policy and procedures, getting the employee to “participate” in the discussion. That is followed up with questions regarding the specific issue. Once the individual participates in the basic questions regarding policy, they’ll be more apt to respond to the more complex questions.
  • Reid Technique – The Reid Technique is frequently taught in law enforcement training. This is a unique style, as it’s less about getting to the root of the interview question and much more focused on assessing the credibility of a person being interviewed. It’s generally used when there are many suspects and the main perpetrator can’t be identified.

With any interview, it’s common to use more than one. For example, the use of the Reid Technique inevitably involves some kinesic interviewing techniques, as you’re looking at both verbal and nonverbal cues. In addition, a cognitive interview may be used at the beginning of an investigation and then become a participatory interview when it’s indicated that the witness may also be a perpetrator. No matter how many you use, however, there’s always a basic process you should follow.

Investigative Interviewing Step-by-Step

No one jumps into one of the interview techniques listed above on their first meeting. For example, if you were investigating a potential bribery complaint, you wouldn’t invite the person into your office and immediately accuse them of taking a bribe. You still need to lay some basic groundwork. Just about all interviews will follow the same basic procedure:

  1. Preparation – The preparation is an important part of the interview because it makes it clear the matter is being taken seriously. The facts of the case and the questions to be asked should be laid out well before the interview. That way, the interviewer can change tactics as needed and as information changes.
  2. Introduction – In a formal FCPA investigation, the first thing you need to do is explain who you are, what you’re investigating and the potential issues involved. Unlike in a police interview, this is no time to be coy. Tell them who you are and what you’re investigating right off.
  3. Build rapport without making promises – You want to be able to connect with the interviewee and even put them at ease. However, you can’t make any promises to do this such as, “You tell me what happened, you won’t get fired.” Statements like that will come back to bite you later when the interviewee states they were coerced.
  4. Asking open-ended questions – This helps the interviewer fill in the blanks. The longer they talk, the more information you gain.
  5. Document – All interviews need to be thoroughly and completely documented to ensure that you’re following company policy and preserving evidence.

No financial company wants to be at the center of an FCPA violation but a good interview with those involved can help mitigate the damage. Regardless of what technique is involved, remember your main goal is to get information. It’s not an opportunity to “attack the wrongdoer.” Interviewing is a tool of any investigation—it’s not the solution.

Another tool in such investigations can be Remote Risk Assessment, a proprietary technology developed by Clearspeed. An RRA interview can have up to seven direct questions that help you gauge an interviewee’s risk, and give you a data point from which to start your deeper investigation. This technology allows you to get to the root of the issue faster by triaging cases better. For more information, contact us.

Image Source | StockSnap user Steve Halama