“Can you find connections between people and organizations,” is a frequent request in this business. Perhaps it is a corporate officer who is not acting independently. Maybe lucrative contracts are being funneled to a friend or relative. Or certain business dealings seem to favor one organization over another. It may be that you just want to figure out the connection to two people.
Under the surface of a seemingly benign relationship, there are a myriad of possible improper dealings or networks that could contribute to the likelihood of fraud, corruption or other shady activity.
Develop a Profile
Think about your own connections and network. How did you meet the various people in your own life?
There are your relatives and you may have friends from the places where you spent your childhood. You make friends and build your professional and social networks first at school, then through your chosen career field. As we age, we tend to also make contacts through our spouse’s family and networks, as well the families of other kids in our children’s networks.
The best way to uncover connections is to develop an in-depth profile of each of the relevant individuals or companies you suspect may be linked. Look at relatives, friends, social contacts, and professional connections. We have previously discussed how to find current and former employees of companies, but an examination of litigation, critical contracts, customer relationships, and professional organization activity may also provide telling details of corporate relationships.
￼Sources of Information
Common Institutions – When you think of common institutions, it is common to think about people attending the same college or university. You should also ask whether they attended any other type of training at the same time (e.g. pilot training, professional certification course, internship, medical training, etc.). Federal and State prison records may reveal that they were incarcerated together.
Professional Organizations – Depending on the individuals’ profession, he may belong to a national or local professional group. Look at each individual’s spouse to determine whether there is any overlap in his or her profession, employers, or organization memberships.
Corporate and Regulatory Filings – Corporate records other regulatory filings (e.g. SEC, FINRA, NFA) may show overlap between two individuals or companies. Depending upon the industry, you may also look to other federal and state databases (OSHA actions, federal contractor databases, state attorney general sites, etc.).
Social Media – Social media sites are commonly used to see which individuals are directly linked. It isn’t difficult to look at someone’s “Friends” on Facebook or contacts on LinkedIn. Relative relationships may be easily identified through Facebook’s labeling options.
Social media posts can also provide additional information about individuals’ interests, professional organization memberships, and their education and employment histories. Did he check-in at his fraternity brothers at their alma mater’s homecoming game? Are there photos of her at the charity gala? Perhaps he has posted details of his marathon training with the local running club.
Online and Print Media – Obituaries, marriage announcements, and real estate transfer reports may contain information about relatives and spouses, but also friends. In one case, we were able to support a client’s suspicion of a relationship between two individuals through a decades-old wedding announcement that identified one subject as an usher in the other subject’s wedding.
Local and national media, as well as online blogs, may also report on large deals between companies, employment activities, litigation, and other issues regarding the corporation in question.
Hobbies and Interests – Do you have information that both subjects enjoy similar hobbies? Check out licenses, property ownership records, and UCC filings too. Perhaps they are both pilots or own boat slips in the same marina. Maybe there is a local club or sports team to which they both belong. Do they consistently run the same road races? Perhaps they are training partners or part of a local training group. Sites such as Athlinks.com consolidate race results for a variety of sports.
Philanthropy and Political Donations – Are the two individuals active in the same party or do they contribute to the same campaigns? Check out contribution records on the FEC.gov website. Could they both contribute to the same charities or provide pro bono services at the same organization? Look to annual reports of donors or lists and photos of gala attendees.
Neighborhood and Children – Look to address histories to determine whether the subjects have lived in the same neighborhood or building at any point throughout their lives. You may also be able to determine whether the subjects have children who are similar in age and either attend the same school or participate in similar extracurricular activities.
Property Records – A closer review of address history could help to identify friends and relatives who have also lived at the same location as the subject. However, a closer inspection of property records – specifically the mortgage details and other buyers/sellers in transactions – may provide even further insight into corporate or personal relationships.
There are so many sources to mine for information about connections. However, most of us can say that we have a close friend or professional contact who we met under a strange circumstance that would render it nearly impossible for someone to independently determine the basis of the relationship.
When setting out to identify connections between people or organizations, it is important to have realistic expectations. Despite your best efforts and an exhaustive search, there just may not be an obvious link between your two parties.