In today’s business climate, accusations against a company, even if unfounded or merely alleged, may trigger a public relations crisis which, amplified and multiplied on the internet, can escalate into an existential threat. Sometimes a company’s size alone, its role as an innovator or disruptor, or its bid to enter a new market can paint a bullseye on its back.
Companies may find themselves simultaneously facing Congressional hearings, pending government regulatory action, class action lawsuits, negative press coverage, public protests or calls for a boycott.
In fact, such events may stem from, or be propelled by a coordinated disinformation campaign being waged against our client. In these cases, we work to identify and profile the actors arrayed against our client and to expose the sometimes hidden connections and collusion among them. A consumer watchdog group might turn out to be a front for plaintiffs’ attorneys who are recruiting litigants. Congressional hearings might have been instigated by lobbyists in the pay of a competing business. Regulatory action or negative publicity might have been sparked by a dossier of negative or misleading information circulated by the same competing business, or by a short-selling hedge fund trying to drive down our client’s share price. Grassroots activist or advocacy groups might be funded by moneyed interests who are adverse to our client.
IGI has developed proprietary sources and methods to identify the perpetrators of such campaigns. The Washington Post called IGI “Legendary for its ‘opposition research probes’ – political or otherwise – that surface unseen connections.” We are highly experienced in working with our clients’ inside or outside government relations and strategic communications teams to leverage results of our investigations to shift narratives and outcomes in our clients’ favor.
- IGI investigated the possible involvement of organized crime in a major strategic industry in Russia and Kazakhstan and identified the source of a negative press campaign against our client. IGI also conducted a background check of a potential Russian partner for a multinational law firm, developing information that was critical to the firm’s decision about proceeding with the proposed partnership.
- We were retained by a high net worth family upon discovery that unknown parties had perpetrated a scheme to impersonate via the internet a prominent member of their family. Using a fake web domain and email addresses to further the impersonation, the perpetrators convinced American business executives to disclose proprietary information by stating that our client intended to invest in their companies. Retained to identify and stop the perpetrators, we quickly assessed the scope of damage and identified and located the impersonator. We also filed an action with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) to seize and shut down the fake domain, communicated with the contacted executives to gather evidence and exonerate our client, and developed evidence on the perpetrators that we provided to law enforcement. Since the conclusion of the engagement described above, the client continued to turn to our team for a variety of issues, including to conduct a legal investigation into the professional and personal conduct of the chief executive of one of the family’s portfolio companies, and to conduct background vetting of potential employees.
- A news organization retained IGI when one of their reporters was subject to disturbing online threats from what appeared to be multiple individuals. We conducted online forensic work to track and identify the sources of the threatening communications, analyzed stories written by the reporter, developed a public records profile of the likely subject, and analyzed the content of the known threats and compared them to known writings of the subject. Our investigation, which determined that the threats were generated by the subject using multiple fake online profiles, informed our legal response and strategy on behalf of the client, which included briefing the appropriate law enforcement agencies, preparing cease and desist letters and an application for a judicial “stay away” order.
- The chief executive officer of a U.S. company retained IGI when an unknown individual impersonated the client in an apparent online effort to disparage the client. Working under our legal supervision, IGI traced internet protocol addresses to a specific geographic location, and through additional public records and social media research, IGI investigators identified the individual responsible for the impersonation. We documented and reported the findings of our investigation to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, at which point the online threats to our client ceased.
- We were retained by a high-profile client in the entertainment industry to address a number of online threats and incidents of harassment. We first developed a profile of the client’s online and public records presence to identify specific areas of vulnerability. Working with our attorneys, we then worked with numerous third party commercial aggregators of public data to remove personal information linked to our client and their family. We also took legal action to minimize public visibility of our client’s assets and personal information, and worked with media outlets to reduce our client’s exposure in existing publications. The results of our legal and investigative work significantly reduced the online profile of our client, which we continued to monitor and act upon as new information appeared on the internet.
- A prominent international organization retained our attorneys and investigators to conduct an internal investigation after learning that confidential documents and information had been misappropriated and leaked to journalists. Our scope of work included determining the extent and circumstances of the breach and conducting a security audit to assist the client in improving its document and IT management systems. In the course of our investigation, we captured and searched terabytes of data from the entity’s file and exchange servers, analyzed financial records and materials published by individuals believed to have received misappropriated documents, and interviewed witnesses. The investigation and audit were supervised by our attorneys, who ensured compliance with legal and client-driven privacy considerations and provided legal counsel to the client through privileged communications and work product while ensuring that privilege was maintained over applicable portions of the investigation. Our deliverables included a comprehensive report and presentation of our findings and recommendations to the organization’s board, which included a factual narrative detailing how certain individuals misappropriated and leaked proprietary documents and information. During the course of the engagement, we provided the client with written legal opinions on specific issues and coordinated with the client’s director of media relations to minimize negative coverage.