Oh no! We’ve been hit by a financial fraud! Yep, your client is in panic mode and wants to call the sheriff, notify the GBI, notify the insurance company, fire the fraudster, etc. As their attorney, you should be prepared for this call and immediately advise your client on the right course of action, regardless of whether or not you will have a long-term involvement in the matter or will instead be referring it to someone else.
All the above steps may come later, but not at first. An immediate firing the suspected fraudster is absolutely the worst thing to do.
Your client is worried about many things… reputational damage, adequate fidelity insurance, how large is the loss really? The client is also worried about who the can trust to advise them on this situation. The right answer of course is “you”, their attorney.
As counsel for your client, you want to be among the first to be contacted. Make sure you have communicated this to your clients. Make sure they do not overreact. Overreaction invites wrongful termination lawsuits, institutional bad-will, and other pains.
The idea here is to not panic and instead proceed down the path of thoughtful discretion and containment. There is a process to follow. Encourage your clients to develop a “Fraud Prevention and Protocols” plan then follow the plan. If the plan is in place, panic will subside more quickly. Also, having developed a plan sends a signal to the staff that fraud is real and not to be toyed with.
In the likely event you get the call and there is no plan in place, the fundamental elements of a plan include:
- A checklist of what to do when fraud is discovered
- Be discreet when fraud is discovered, keep as few people in the know as possible
- Board notification
- Collect and preserve data
- Notify counsel and trusted professionals
- Limited internal investigation
- Suspend the fraudster
- Hire a forensic accountant
- Follow through
We are ready to assist you with calming your client’s initial panic and implementing a tested plan at any time. We also have developed approved Georgia CLE that we can provide to you on this very topic.
If you have any questions or comments about this article or of other related topics, please give us a call or an email and we’ll be happy to discuss them with you.