Chapter 4: Evaluation Processes, Investigations, and Noncompliance Response

Internal Investigations

A good investigation can act as a shield, bolstering an organization’s defense and helping to avoid liability or mitigate damages. However, it is far more common that an investigation is a sword to find and cut out wrongdoing in an organization before an outside party or agency comes in.

Complaint intake and investigation are a company’s first (and possibly only) opportunity to hear about an allegation, check it out, and, as necessary, fix it. No compliance program is foolproof—there is always some person who slips through the cracks and behaves badly (often called the “bad apple”) or some system of controls that breaks down. While much of ethics and compliance is about prevention, detection is its twin, and the best tools of detection are often effective complaint intake and investigation. In hindsight, a government agency, judge, or even jury will ask the following of an investigation:

  • What did the organization know?

  • When did the organization know it?

  • How quickly did the organization undertake an investigation?

  • Was the investigation adequate?

  • Did the organization detect and adequately address any wrongdoing in a timely and appropriate manner?

  • Did the organization follow up on the effectiveness of the corrective action?

Having an effective framework for complaint intake and investigations helps an organization cut down risks at an early stage, manage employee and external issues, and message the expectations employees and the public can have about how the organization manages such matters and those involved. The framework and tools for investigations should reflect the values, philosophy, risks, and goals of the organization. To make good decisions, you need information. Complaints and investigations provide access to information and can be valuable tools in analyzing data, correcting problems early, and spotting possible trends.

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