Kusserow on Compliance: Internal investigations by any other name

In most organizations, there are many people who may be called upon to respond to a complaint or concern raised by an employee; few of these complaints or concerns, however, might rise to the level of requiring a formal investigation. Emil Moschella, JD is a highly experienced health care compliance consultant who previously served as an FBI executive and also taught at the FBI National Academy. He warns to be careful about calling something an “investigation,” as it is an emotionally charge term that may lead people to infer a lot more about what is occurring than is factually correct. If a person believes that something may result in referral to an enforcement agency, the situation may make them more defensive and cautious when responding to questions.  As such, wherever possible, he advises using neutral terminology to avoid unnecessarily exciting concerns and speculation among employees. There are a lot of other terms that can be used as the definition of “investigation.” It is a detailed and systematic inquiry into something, often through gathering facts and information to solve a problem or resolve an issue. A number of other activities in organizations could meet that general definition, including conducting an audit, evaluation, internal inquiry, or internal review. He has found that characterizing the activity using these “less charged” terms can avoid the potential emotional response of using the term investigation.

Kashish Parikh-Chopra, JD, MBA, CHC, CHPC works with compliance officers to train staff on conducting internal investigations. She notes that many complaints, allegations, and concerns are often very routine in nature that can be resolved within a day or two through normal management procedures or with Human Resources. However, when confronted with a serious or complex matter, it is necessary to have properly trained individuals conduct the investigation in order to avoid aggravating matters and potentially creating additional problems. Professional investigators cannot be expected to be available for a compliance office to conduct an internal investigation, however, certain basic principles should be taught to anyone taking on the role of an investigator in an organization. Those who may become actively involved in internal investigations may include individuals from the compliance office, Human Resources, internal audit, privacy/security officers, legal counsel, etc. They should undergo training by experts to learn how to plan an investigation, conduct proper interviews, organize evidence, prepare written reports, and manage documentation. This can be done by participating in investigator training through webinars, conferences, or having experts provide training on-site.

 

For more information, Kashish Parikh-Chopra can be reached at kchopra@strategicm.com or via telephone at (703) 535-1413.

 

Richard P. Kusserow served as DHHS Inspector General for 11 years. He currently is CEO of Strategic Management Services, LLC (SM), a firm that has assisted more than 3,000 organizations and entities with compliance related matters. The SM sister company, CRC, provides a wide range of compliance tools including sanction-screening.

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Copyright © 2018 Strategic Management Services, LLC. Published with permission.