Five key elements of internal corporate investigations

May 18, 2023

Internal investigation processes are a fundamental control to prevent the commission of illegal acts and irregularities within companies.

However, if these processes do not have the crucial elements to work well, it is likely that they will not deliver the expected results. In turn, if these processes are not really known by all the members and collaborators of the organization, it is highly probable that they will not give the expected results either.

In this regard, and since the law does not specify how these procedures should be implemented and what are the essential elements they must have, we will now review five key requirements that must be considered when conducting an internal investigation:

1- Having an effectively implemented whistleblower channel: For a whistleblower channel to be effective, it must have certain characteristics that inspire confidence in its users. In this sense, an effective channel must be known by all members of the organization, as well as be open to third parties related to the company in order to detect early any irregularity that may involve the company. In this way, it will be possible to initiate timely investigations of the reported facts. On the contrary, a distant channel, unknown to the members and collaborators of an organization, will probably never be used.

2- Having people responsible for conducting investigations: To ensure the effectiveness of the process of receiving and handling complaints, it is essential to establish a clear flow and define who will be responsible for carrying out the corresponding investigations. Although it is recommended that complaints be received by a single person, it is not necessary that this same person be in charge of conducting the investigations. In this sense, it is important to distinguish the different types of complaints that may be received and to determine the characteristics that the investigator in charge of each case should have.

3- Guarantees of protection for those involved: Any investigation procedure must guarantee the protection of the whistleblowers. Therefore, it is advisable that both the reception and investigation of complaints include measures to ensure anonymity, confidentiality and security of information, as well as clear contact mechanisms. In some cases, it may be necessary to adopt measures to protect the identity of the reported person until the investigation is concluded, or even take protective measures, such as keeping the investigation secret and the anonymity of the complainant, in order to avoid situations such as loss of information or the creation of an unfavorable work environment.

4- Establish deadlines or milestones: Respecting certain guarantees is fundamental to ensure an adequate investigation procedure, both for the whistleblower and the reported. In this sense, it is important to establish deadlines or milestones during the investigation, which will contribute to make the process efficient, safe and promote trust between the parties involved. Each company should take into consideration its reality and availability of resources to establish these deadlines, always in a reasonable manner.

5- Inform the authority when appropriate: Although not all reports must be reported to the authority, the implementation of this type of mechanism allows the company to diligently comply with its duties of prevention and lay the groundwork for the configuration of possible extenuating circumstances. Thus, once the internal investigation has been completed, and when the existence of potential criminal acts is concluded, it is advisable for the company’s senior management to analyze the advisability of filing a complaint with the corresponding authority.

Consequently, the establishment of internal whistleblower investigation procedures helps to:

  • Promote a culture of transparency and business ethics.
    Facilitate investigative work.
    Ensure the application of fair and effective sanctions, when appropriate.

For more information on these topics please contact our Compliance | Tech group:

Francisca Franzani | Director Compliance Group – Tech | ffranzani@az.cl

Jaime Viveros | Associate | jviveros@az.cl

Francisca Macchiavello | Associate | fmacchiavello@az.cl

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