You simply cannot conduct a cross-border investigation without people who know the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of certain jurisdictions. What may be acceptable to say or do in one culture may totally offend someone from another culture.
London, UK (PRWEB UK) 22 May 2014
As corporate investigators can attest, managing the investigation of an incident in a local office is tough enough, but when that incident requires investigation in a foreign country, the level of complexity rises even further. Issues such as restrictions on gathering data and information, legal differences between countries, and cultural and communication barriers are among the biggest challenges.
Seek Appropriate Counsel
Laws and regulations vary greatly between countries. Even in nations with similar cultures, the laws that govern the investigative process are often extremely divergent. Consider, for example, a case in which a software company investigated its Russian subsidiary1. As is common in the United States, the investigators encrypted the data, unaware that Russian law prohibits the encryption of certain types of information. This mistake resulted in a delayed investigation.
Stories like this are not uncommon when it comes to conducting a cross-border investigation. To avoid such mistakes, investigators need to be briefed on the laws of the host nation before they begin. To ensure clarity regarding the host country’s legal system, companies often engage outside counsel that specialises in or practices law in the host country. Other experts suggest building a strong relationship with local officials at the beginning of the investigation, as they can be very helpful in informing investigators of the steps to be taken.
Understand the Impact of Cultural Differences
In a survey of executives conducted by KPMG, 37 per cent of respondents cited cultural differences as the top challenge to conducting a cross-border investigation. This number, which was at 26 per cent in 2007,2 showed some of the highest growth between the two surveys. According to Phil Oswalt, global coordinator of investigations for KPMG’s global forensic practice, “You simply cannot conduct a cross-border investigation without people who know the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of certain jurisdictions. What may be acceptable to say or do in one culture may totally offend someone from another culture. Loyalties also differ by culture, and some employees may be hesitant to speak out against a countryman for the benefit of a foreign company.”
Unfortunately, most organisations do not retain a full-time advisor to help investigators understand the intricacies of the local culture, let alone someone who is fluent in the local language. The best approach to such cross-border investigative challenges is to form solid partnerships with language solution providers that offer a full range of services beyond having a translator present to conduct interviews. An investigation will also require that documents are translated, reviewed and certified, with the assurance that that the quality of the translation leaves no room for speculation regarding meaning or intent.
It’s also critically important that the language partner who is performing the document and testimony translations is familiar with the company’s pertinent industry terminology and jargon. Mistakes in this area can prove to be extremely costly for the investigation.
Any company proactively pursuing cross-border business should establish its investigative procedures early on, so that it is fully prepared if and when an incident occurs. These processes, however, are not enough. The company must have access to knowledgeable legal counsel and establish a team of professionals with the expertise to address the myriad cultural, linguistic, and communication differences that may arise during the course of the investigation.
1 KPMG International. (2013). Cross-border investigations: Are you prepared for the challenge? Web. (accessed March 28, 2014).
2 “Companies are unprepared for cross-border investigations, reveals KPMG survey.” (January 2014). The Lawyer. Web. (accessed March 28, 2014).
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