With ongoing changes in the regulatory and enforcement environment in Australia, such as the introduction of the National Anti-Corruption Commission, investigation activity both by regulators and internally within business is on the rise.
We conducted a survey of recent internal investigations that have been supported by HSF’s Australian corporate crime & investigations team, to shed light on key trends, issues and learnings that could be useful for our clients and businesses more broadly as they face more and more frequent investigations and require tools and frameworks to manage the potential for their business to react.
Six key highlights were:
1. An upward trajectory
The rise in internal investigations reflects heightened regulatory focus and attention on reporting of potential misconduct and concerns, including through whistleblowing, and an increased sophistication of corporate compliance programs.
2. Breadth and depth
Organisations are dealing with a breadth and depth of matters, with investigations covering a wide variety of allegations, countries, sectors and levels of seniority with a company.
The most common trigger for investigations was the receipt of a whistleblower report. Changes to Australia’s whistleblower regime in recent years are clearly making a mark on corporate conduct and responses to allegations of misconduct.
4. Anticipating issues
Conducting investigations is giving rise to a range of associated governance, employment, disclosure and other legal issues. Management of those issues need to be tailored to the matter, particularly the subject and subject matter of the investigation, but companies can prepare by anticipating common issues that may arise and considering likely resources that will be required.
5. Enhancing investigation readiness
While around a third of surveyed investigation leveraged some internal resources for internal investigations, nearly 70% were developing their response ‘on the go’ and could benefit from enhancing their readiness for investigations. Developing a fit for purpose compliance framework (particularly whistleblowing policies and procedures) can help to reduce the risk of non-compliance and investigation mis-steps, identify issues earlier and make the investigation process more streamlined and less stressful.
6. Key source of learnings and feedback
Investigations are a valuable source of feedback and organisational learnings. A very large proportion of investigations (around 80%) identified areas for improvement in compliance frameworks or other processes.
To request a copy of our more detailed survey findings, please contact: