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This post originally appeared on ACFE Insights, a blog run by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

Bill James revolutionized the way that people look at baseball players. Sabermatricians, as his followers would later be known, felt that there was a direct correlation between a player’s past and future performance. Instead of relying on the subjective judgments of baseball scouts, James compiled objective statistics and analysis to measure a player’s performance, thus helping to predict future performance.

“Brady Ball”

A great example of Bill James’ method happened in 1996, when Baltimore Orioles slugger Brady Anderson hit 50 home runs in 687 plate appearances (equivalent to one home run for every 13.7 plate appearances), while in his previous three seasons, he hit a total of 41 home runs in 1,846 plate appearances (one home run for every 45 plate appearances).

It’s clear that Anderson’s past performance did not correlate with his breakout 1996 season, and sure enough, he regressed back to one home run every 40 plate appearances for the remainder of his career.

Anderson was long suspected of using steroids for the 1996 season, but those reports have never been confirmed. Without analyzing historical statistics, it would be difficult to see the uniqueness of that 1996 season.

How does analyzing “past performance” in baseball relate to a background check?

Collecting and analyzing information based on a baseball player’s past performance is similar to what a private investigator does when conducting a background check. Objective information is collected about a person’s past through open sources and public records to help clients make more accurate predictions about the future. Historical bankruptcies, financial difficulties, criminal acts, a litigious past, misrepresentations and regulatory sanctions are all indicators of potential problems down the road.

Past performance issues in a background check

There were many “past performance” issues that should have been major red flags in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, including a two-person accounting staff overseeing a $50 billion firm, a highly secretive investment strategy and investment gains that neither Wall Street professionals nor Harry Markopolos, the Madoff whistleblower, could recreate.

Other examples of “past performance” as an indicator of the future can be found in our recent post about 11 convicted Ponzi schemers who had already served jail time for other frauds or in the ACFE’s recent post about Barry Minkow’s recent criminal charges.

Final Thought

Just like in baseball, there is no one piece of information or statistic in a background check that can help predict the future. In fact, there are multiple layers of information over a period of time that must be analyzed to fully understand someone’s past behavior.

When trying to learn more about a person’s background, if you think that a few reference checks, Google searches, a referral from respected members of the community or a couple of face-to-face meetings are the most reliable predictor of future performance, you need to take a page from the great Bill James and evaluate past performance.

Thanks to Seth Godin’s “Bill James and you” for the brilliant idea.

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In high stakes litigation, an expert witness background investigation may uncover information that could potentially discredit the expert witness and ultimately lead to a favorable outcome.

Pretrial discovery provided you with the opposing expert’s CV and details about his compensation for testimony. You may have Googled the expert witness or pulled up a few of his articles on Google Scholar. But what does this really tell you about your adversary’s expert? What do you truly know about your own expert, for that matter?

It’s easy for anyone to do some basic searches and get a “snapshot” of the expert that will be on the stand. It’s even easier to rely on the information provided by the expert. But what are you missing? Unless you find a glaring discrepancy or a front page scandal, basic research won’t provide you with the ammunition to discredit or disqualify your adversary’s expert.

In a comprehensive expert witness background investigation, an experienced investigator can dig deeper into the background of an opposing expert witness to help you on cross examination. In high stakes litigation, you should assume that your opponent is doing the same thing – what will they find? Investigating your own expert may prevent potential problems at trial and you will be better able to anticipate the other side’s attack.

Below are some areas that could be uncovered in a expert witness background investigation that could potentially discredit the witness:

The CV

Verifying the veracity of the information in the expert witness’s CV is a good, basic starting point. It is critical to know that the information contained in the CV is complete and accurate.  In addition to verifying “directory information” of former affiliations, organizations and educational institutions, investigators can also speak with former colleagues or associates, learning additional details about the expert.

Affiliations and Conflicts of Interest

In the past, attorneys have tried to obtain information about experts’ affiliations and monetary arrangements through discovery. As judges begin to limit the scope of discovery motions this tool may not always yield useful information. Having an investigator dig into an expert’s affiliations (e.g., organizations, educational institutions, employers, business partners etc.) may reveal conflicts of interests or other information useful for discrediting the witness.

Prior Statements

Pulling testimony in cases is time consuming, and frequently requires personnel to go to the court in question, but it can be a goldmine of information. Contradictory testimony in prior cases is, of course, a fantastic way to discredit a witness. Attorneys should also consider using other statements by the expert made in the media, scholarly articles, and other sources.

Past Acts

In the past year there have been notable examples of discredited experts throughout the United States and the world. Prior criminal records and a history of work issues have come to light both in the United Kingdom and in the San Francisco forensic crime lab. Currently, a scandal is unfolding in Florida, where psychologist George Rekers’ testimony in numerous parental rights cases, is being called into question. Rekers’ paid testimony for the state attorney general’s office is being scrutinized.

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An attorney may think that they do not have any need for an experienced private investigator because of the variety of skills and resources that they employ.  But have you ever found yourself staring at a computer screen and asking:

I know the answer is out there…Where do we go from here?

Although law school and career experience provide an attorney with a number of useful research techniques and litigation skill, they do have limits.

Consulting with a professional private investigator can help attorney’s to leverage your position and find creative and efficient ways to come out ahead of your adversary.

Here are 10 ways that an attorney can use a professional private investigator:

1 Locate People
It may be a witness or an heir. Perhaps it’s a former employee who can shed light on corporate misconduct. Or maybe you need to locate a witness in possession of the proverbial “smoking gun.” Whether you would like to interview, serve, or investigate someone, an investigator can help you to identify and locate the individual.

2 Locate Assets
Investigators are skilled at locating assets such as real estate, valuable property (artwork, antiques, collectibles, etc.), and vehicles (motor vehicles, aircraft, vessels, etc.). An investigator can also help attorneys to identify the location both domestic and offshore bank accounts (though the details of these assets may not necessarily be disclosed by banking institutions without court order or permission from the account holder – see our post 5 Myths: What a Private Investigator Cannot (Legally) Get.

3 Leverage for Negotiations
An investigator can pull together key sources and intelligence to inform your side during litigation, an M &A deal, internal investigation, or any other adversarial situation that can make the difference between a favorable settlement.

4 Enforce Judgments
A judgment is only useful if you are able to enforce it. An investigator can help attorneys to identify current assets and any efforts to hide or misrepresent them through the transfer to family members, friends or other parties.

5 Connect the Dots
Investigators can help you to know who is actually sitting on the other side of the table during litigation or a potential business deal. You can gain immeasurable negotiation power by identifying who is actually behind a faceless corporation or tying together undisclosed connections.

6 Predict Your Opponent’s Next Move
Through an investigation, you can learn your opponent’s history and patterns of behaviors so as to best predict how they will react under pressure. This will help you to be successful in litigation strategizing, during cross examination, or at the deal table.

7 Prep For Cross Examination
During preparation for a deposition or courtroom testimony, an investigator’s report detailing your witnesses’ weaknesses, background, and behavioral tendencies may be one of your most valuable tools. This can also be useful in identifying information against your client, so you can be prepared for what may come up during the course of the litigation.

8 Collect and review electronic evidence
Whether it is an adversarial matter or an internal investigation, investigators may be used to efficiently recover electronic files – including those that a subject believes he or she has successfully deleted. Investigators are frequently used to identify and analyze a subject’s emails, documents, or other files.

9 Trademark and Intellectual Property Monitoring
Investigators can be used to successfully police a company’s products throughout the world. Counterfeiting and improper diversion of products onto the grey market are just two of the most common areas where an investigator can provide intelligence and assistance.

10 Reconstruction
A historical reconstruction may be helpful in a number of different areas. Perhaps you need to review the history of a family to locate heirs. It could be a corporate history or a chain of title issue in a real estate matter. Whatever the issue, an investigator can help to identify and piece together long lost documents, facts and witnesses.

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