Should You Outsource to a Professional Investigator (PI)?

This post is the second in a series designed to develop a foundational understanding of when, why, and how to leverage investigations and the use of professional investigators to achieve your brand protection objectives. 

In our post “Time for an Investigation? 10 Points to Ponder”, we explored questions to consider when determining whether an investigation may be necessary. If you have decided that an investigation on some scale makes sense, your next decision is how you want it handled, including whether to engage an outside investigative resource, such as a professional investigator (PI). 

PIs (Professional Investigators) are licensed experts capable of navigating complex investigations effectively. Their skills, knowledge and credentials allow them to leverage both open-source and closed-source intelligence, which adds validity, and can be effectively relied upon by legal professionals and law enforcement in a court of law. The value of promptly engaging an expert is underscored in instances involving time sensitivities, such as evidence selling out or disappearing if you do not act quickly. 

Below are 10 considerations when determining whether a PI may be the most efficient route to support your investigative needs. 

Specialized Expertise 

Professional investigators are experts in their field, just like you are an expert in your field. Working cases day in and day out, sharpens the saw. PIs possess technical knowledge, experience and perspective that can prove invaluable in handling intricate investigative contexts. Their understanding of the nuances of investigations could have a significant impact on achieving your objectives, particularly if your potential case falls within their investigative specialty. 

Objective Perspective 

Consider the need for objectivity. As an outside party bound to the facts, PIs will offer an impartial and neutral perspective, free from real or perceived internal biases or conflicts of interest that might arise if the investigation is handled internally. In cases when involved parties, entities and motives are unclear, engaging external support is the best way to preserve impartiality. By nature of the profession and conducting thousands of investigations, investigators bring a unique perspective and filter to discerning facts and evidence, especially as industry patterns and common themes emerge based on case types.  

Depth of Resources 

PIs have access to a wide range of resources that may not be readily available to you or the public. These resources could include specialized tools, contact networks and closed-source databases. It is likely that they have established accounts, relationships and a rolodex of industry and law enforcement contacts from prior cases to leverage to your benefit. Consider how tapping into resources that might not be easily accessible to you can significantly enhance the investigation’s depth and effectiveness.  

Confidentiality & Discretion 

Maintaining the highest levels of confidentiality and discretion is paramount in many investigations. Depending on the experience and maturity level of available personnel, this task may be more challenging if handled internally. Hiring a PI ensures this for your case as well, as they are skilled in safeguarding sensitive information and ensuring the designated point of contact (POC) is the one informed of findings to disseminate internally as desired.  

Scope & Expectation Management 

Whether managing yourself, an internal colleague or an outside resource, someone must be held accountable to stay within scope, recognize any necessary shifts and manage your expectations. If you are the client and the PI is your vendor, staying on task, schedule and budget are fundamental conditions of the engagement. The vendor should serve and support your needs with laser focus. You can be more demanding and set higher expectations, unencumbered by any awareness of other responsibilities on their plate. The classic phrase, “You get what you pay for,” applies. 

Additionally, having the bandwidth if the scope grows beyond what was originally anticipated, consider how a PI might be better poised to manage those unexpected complexities and challenges. Their experience and autonomy allow them to adapt swiftly and efficiently to changing circumstances, in ways that might not be as fluid for internal personnel.  

Maintaining Anonymity 

Especially in sensitive matters, what could happen if the suspicions, the reason for an investigation or the investigation itself were exposed prematurely and linked back to you or your organization? Whether in the real or virtual worlds, the breadcrumbs left behind tell a story. Entire investigations can be built on those breadcrumbs too. Outsourcing the investigation will always be a better way to ensure your or your company’s anonymity by nature of being one step removed from any action. 

Undercover Assets 

While the need for this investigative tool will vary depending on the case, engaging a resource with established undercover assets saves you stress, hassle and planning. Understanding how to best leverage these assets to benefit investigations is a skill that PIs versed in this practice know well. Speaking for Vaudra, with legally established entities that have functional websites, social media profiles, addresses and payment accounts ready for this purpose, we invest in ensuring our anonymity to protect our clients. Should undercover contact, evidential buys, or other interactions directly with the subject of investigation be necessary, having the undercover resources in place with a solid backstop is critical. 

Evidence Handling 

Whether it is digital or physical evidence, it is essential that the collection, handling, preservation, and storage of evidence is in accordance with best practices and up to legal standards. If there is the possibility of a criminal or civil matter, evidence is king, regardless of whether it ends up being produced as part of the case or is simply for reference to substantiate the facts. As part of their daily activities, PIs will be experts in this arena, ensuring that evidence is legally obtained, preserved with chain of custody and admissible for court when necessary. 

Fact Witnesses & Conflicts of Interest 

Can I get a witness? Good question, Marvin Gaye. If the case has the potential to go to court, who signs the declaration? Who is deposed? If the investigation is handled internally, is the individual conducting it the best fact witness or most relevant expert with the credibility to support your case? If you are lead attorney at a law firm and your paralegal completes the evidential buy, will there be a conflict of interest should the paralegal be called as a witness? By outsourcing the investigation, the PI becomes the potential expert or fact witness, rather than you or someone from your organization. This also may help minimize risks associated with such escalation.  

Maximizing Outcome & ROI 

Finally, the goal of any investigation is to achieve a satisfactory outcome while optimizing return on investment (ROI). Who is most likely to achieve the maximum ROI? There are only so many hours in the day, so what is the best use of your time based on your other responsibilities and hourly rate? Vs. paralegals, associates, or investigators? And who is poised to provide the highest RETURN of results from any time spent? If we leverage our strengths and work within our core competencies, often everyone is better served. 

In evaluating your situation, it should become clear whether outsourcing your investigative need to a PI may be a more effective route to achieving the objectives and improving the likelihood of success. If your hesitation is borne from uncertainty of how to identify a suitable PI to support your efforts, the next blog in this series provides suggested criteria and areas to consider when evaluating prospective resources. 

Sharing our perspective based on 20+ years of investigative experience, we have compiled additional top 10 lists for each step of the journey as you enter this realm: 

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