Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Last Post here at Blogspot. Moving to a new home.

If you have the inclination, reset your blog roll and your reader account to point the way to

This is our new home on the web. Drop by any time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Moving Time - Shipping our blog

All of you loyal fans and readers out there, and there are a LOT of you, please take note:

[FIND] Investigations is shedding the domain for a new service.

We've boxed up all of our bow ties and seersucker posts, folded up our recipes on cocktail napkins, and sorted our business blogs. We're about to haul the whole truckload of wit and wisdom just down the road to a new service.

So, in the next week or so, we'll get an email out tho the throngs, our faithful readers, with our new blog address. Likely it'll be something like, but we'll see.



Monday, October 10, 2011

Five More Tips to Trump the Competition

1. Hang: Most offices have a place where the work staff hangs out: a favorite diner for lunch, the "company" bar, etc. Do a bit of research and find out where the competition's team spends their free time. People love to complain about work, hash out projects, and talk about the bosses. Sit. Listen.

Sometimes you can even engage. I once took a business intelligence trip to Arizona. The target company was a very large player in the hospitality industry. I stayed in the same hotel. Struck up a conversation at the bar with one of the execs, an attractive 50-ish year old female who loved to down martinis. I asked her why she was in town. She told me...For five hours, she told me. An hour into the conversation, her team showed up, introductions made all around, and they told me...My client was able to put together an entire proposal based on our conversation. Bar tab - $60.00, Hourly fees - $500, first-hand intelligence - Priceless.

2. Find the Ex: Tap into the rumor-mill and find out who's just left the competitor's ranks. (There are several industry specific news outlets that actually post revolving-door news items.) Find past employees. Ask them to dinner. Ask them questions: What does XYZ Co. do really well? How are they better than us? In which areas are they weak? Do not ask people to violate non-disclosure agreements.

3. Buy: Become a customer. Use their services. Find out, first hand, what the competition does better than you.

4. Buy (part 2): Buy stock. Seriously, buy a couple shares of the competition's stock. Now you have the right to learn anything that other shareholders know. Worth a shot.

5. Conference Hound: Go to the same trade shows. People love to brag. Let them.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Five Tips to Trump the Competition

Everyday Corporate Intelligence Tricks:

  1. Shift that Paradigm: Typically the sales department and marketing team view competition with a degree of contempt. Fear and ignorance lead to bad decision making. Digging for dirt and trying to discredit the competition often (almost always) leads to a myopic view and bad intelligence. Step back and have a look at your competition from the perspective of a new client. View them through the eyes of a prospect, a regular player in the market with generally positive expectations. Ask what they do well. Where do they excel? How could they solve my problems? You might be surprised to learn that the competition is actually better at some things than you are. Know your competition, don’t just sling mud.

  1. Read: Set up an RSS feed that provides you with any stories in the media about your competition. Are stories being written about them? Are they being quoted as experts? Learn what they have to say. Google Alerts is an easy way to do this. Pay close attention to help-wanted ads. If you’ve been paying attention for some time, you’ll start to notice when the competition is staffing up for a huge new project.

  1. Gather Web Intelligence: Scour their corporate web site, read every bit. Download pages. Study the material. What products do they sell? What services do they provide? We actually set up a notebook for each company we’re tracking. There are several sections to these three ring binders, but the first and easiest to get is the entire content from the competition’s own web site. Review the competitions web site as if you were a new customer (see No. 1).

  1. Build a Network of Human Intelligence: This will take some finesse and will definitely take an investment in time, but countless people come through your office on a daily basis who can provide you with valuable, valuable information. Talk to them. UPS, FedEx, the guy who services copy machines, even the water delivery service, all fantastic sources of information. Build rapport, engage, and over time slip in some comments and questions about the competition. You’ll be surprised how much the water guy knows.

  1. Ask: How about this for a crazy idea: Ask the competition directly. Simple really.

Next week we’ll dig a little deeper into some more ideas for gathering intelligence on the competition. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Sartorial Sleuth: Double Vision

Michael B. Jordan, in GQ
Someone suggested the other day that a double breasted suit or coat might make a great addition to the PI wardrobe.

I am not a small man. I’m not huge, but by no means small. My shoulders are wide, waist within reason (slowly spreading, but still), and I stand six feet nothing. My body type is, in theory, perfect for a double breasted suit. I’ve just never been a fan.

GQ has a fantastic 9 photo spread this month of Michael B. Jordan, that loveable QB from the Dillon Lions (Friday Night Lights), wearing a series of double breasted suits and coats. He, as one would expect, looks fantastic. The key seems to be in the tailoring.

For a double breasted jacket, one should spend some time with a tailor. The coat should fit snugly, and it shouldn't be too long. Bring in the waist line and accentuate the shoulders. Look for no fewer than six buttons (three on each side) and a peaked lapel. These details draw attention to the shoulders, which is what the DB suit is all about.

Since the DB covers up more neckwear than a single breasted coat, it’s best to pick a spread collar shirt to show off that fantastic tie. And since the DB just seems more formal than the standard suit-coat, it’s perfect for a bow-tie. (Had to get that in)

Accessories - This is a perfect opportunity to throw in some color. Again, the abundance of material in the DB hides most of your tie, so have some fun – tuck in a colorful pocket square.

If you’re going to don the DB, then you must pay some attention to the pants. I usually stick with flat front, straight legged trousers, but for the DB one needs pants that hold it together. A simple pleat and a substantial cuff are required, otherwise the outfit looks top-heavy. Jeans are another thing altogether and I’m not sure the juxtaposition would work, but – hey – if the shoes, shirt, tie and pocket square are perfect, - maybe???

Final thoughts: As I said, the DB coat is not my personal favorite, but I’m willing to try. I’ve been perusing the aisles at FLIP, looking for a double breasted coat to add to the wardrobe. We’ll see…

Monday, September 26, 2011

Invisible Man

We at [FIND] love the romantic (if cliched) image of the PI, the spy, the International Man of Mystery: he is a "he," he wears his fedora low over one eye and his trench coat collar buttoned high and vertically, and he smokes unfiltered Gauloises. Saxophones cry out at his every step (in shiny black wingtips), and the mean streets he treads glisten with ceaseless night rain and its bottomless reflections.

The myth of the PI (or spy) is a story of longing. The noir hero came of age in an era of financial collapse, Fascism, Communism, and world war. He was the hero we wanted then, willing to dirty his hands in the service of Good...and he dressed the part.

Who knows? He and his fedora might have melted perfectly into the murky night in occupied Paris or Cold-War-Era Warsaw. Or maybe even in 1950s Chinatown.

Today, he's as useless as a Crown Vic when it comes to surveillance.

[FIND] lexicon:

Cover for Status - an activity, outfit, and/or manner that provides a false pretext for being in a certain place, so that agent may conduct surveillance without arousing suspicion

Cover for Action - an activity, outfit, and/or manner that provides a false pretext for doing something, so that agent may conduct some type of covert activity without arousing suspicion

In the modern-day PI universe, a guy in a fedora and trench doesn't disappear into the scenery so well. The unsexy truth of it is this: to fade into the background, a PI's gotta set aside fashion and mystery and shoot for dull. To become invisible, or at least to seem so ordinary as to become de facto invisible, (s)he's gotta look like exactly what you'd expect to see in any given environment. A guy sitting in a car with tinted windows arouses suspicion. A guy standing by a work vehicle wearing a hard hat and manipulating some combination of survey tripod, orange cones, and clipboard does not warrant a second glance.

Creating a plausible cover for status means blending in seamlessly to a range of situations—wearing an outfit that makes people forget to see you, doing things that conform to people's idea of what a person in that outfit should be doing, and having a simple story or act ready to go when you're questioned. Magnetic vehicle signs with a fake company logo can complete the story, but make sure the phone number isn't a dead end...or your personal cell phone number.

Cover for action gets a little more complicated, but the same idea applies: have a good reason to be there. Need to get a quick look inside a new house without pulling a B&E (lawbreaking is NOT recommended)? Drop by and welcome the new neighbors to the 'hood with a lovely fruit basket from the local church or neighborhood association.

In the end, "cover" is the operative word: it's about camouflage, urban or otherwise. You can hide almost anywhere by looking as if you belonged there. Ghillie suit seldom, if ever, required.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Interrogation - Backwards and Forwards

Police inquisitors, detectives, and interrogators have long been taught that one method of getting to the truth is to have the subject recount events in reverse order. The theory appears sound: people like to fill in the blanks in a story with constructs, thoughts or images that did not actually happen, to make a tale run smoother. Remove the linear nature of storytelling and the tendency to confabulate should decrease. The theory is so sound, in fact, that police forces in Australia, Britain, New Zealand, Norway, and Spain, to name a few, have been using reverse recall as a matter of policy for years.

I attended a seminar on interviewing where the speaker actually said that this method of interrogation was the most useful way to elicit a truthful statement from an interviewee. “They don’t have the time or the creativity to make things up in reverse-recall,” my instructor said.

Well, as with many a fine theory, when put to scientific rigor, it falls short.

A brief story in September 2, 2011 issue of The Economist details a study by Lancaster University which basically debunks this theory. The researchers showed a short film depicting a cell phone robbery. Two days later the subjects of the test were separated into three groups: 1 – recall the events freely then in reverse order, 2 – recall the robbery in reverse order first then freely, 3 - (control group) recall the events freely both times.

The researchers found that the control group recalled the events correctly 48.7 percent of the time. The group that began with reverse-recall and then recounted the story freely scored 42.2 percent accuracy. The group that started with free recall then reverse-recall scored a pathetic 38.7 percent. I think it’s important to note that eyewitness testimony has already been proven to be less than reliable on several occasions. Seriously, none of the groups achieved even 50% correct recall.

The most interesting finding, however, was that the number of mistakes made among the three groups was roughly the same, but the group that recalled events in reverse order first, actually made up (pure confabulation) recollections 600% more often than the control group.

The majority of the confabulations were observed during the reverse recall portion of the exam. This flies directly in the face of what I’ve been taught in seminars and classes about interview and interrogation.

Why people, people who have no reason whatsoever to lie, make up events when using reverse-recall is a mystery. The Economist says that this study, “…does, however, point out the dangers of taking even logically plausible ideas on trust, rather than testing them.”

Those of you who testify as expert witnesses in court proceedings might want to check out the study here. It could come in handy one day.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More on the Detrimental Impact of Too Many Rules

Disclaimer: I have written about this topic within the past three (or five) years.

I received an email today titled, "Requirement." The sender of the email is a man in whom I place a great deal of trust. I admire him because he is a thinking man who considers issues with efficiency and caution. He, however, is a player in an industry that is gasping its last feeble breaths, thanks in large part to silly, knee-jerk regulations that are applied across an entire industry, regardless of whether or not they mean anything or add to the work product.

It seems that a small cadre of consultants has been in serious breach of a specific regulation. The rule, handed down from the towers of wisdom, requires all consultants to clearly state in every report whether or not the consultant has ever worked on a specific project in any capacity in the past three years. (There is some debate about the three year rule - should you report for a five year period, lifetime, etc. One particularly inept consultant, the one who gets really excited about the rules and making sure they are obeyed and implemented, even suggested that if you mowed the lawn for someone involved in a specific project in 1987 then you are required disclose that in the report.) To be clear: I have written about this topic within the past three (or five) years.

I always include this statement in my letter of transmittal, right up front, so that my clients are clear about any past activities with respect to any given assignment. Turns out, that's wrong. The statement MUST be included in a certification (one portion of the report that bears signatures), not in the letter (which happens to be another portion of the report that bears signatures, but who's counting?). If a consultant does these things he or she is in complete compliance with regulations, unless a client requests that it be included in the letter.

Oh, and just to be sure, probably better make mention of your past experience with a particular assignment in the history section as well, as required by many clients and as interpreted by some of those who reside in the aforementioned tower of wisdom (And that particularly inept consultant, the one who gets really excited about the rules and making sure they are obeyed and implemented.). Also, best make sure that you describe any changes in your analysis and why you made said changes.

So, we now have the exact same sentence included in a single report in three separate places. Inclusion of this sentence in no way increases the reliability of a given report. It does not add to credibility to the analysis. It does not, in any way, have any impact on the conclusions derived for a given assignment. But it's in there, as required.

Certification: I, Thomas H. Humphreys, do hereby certify that I have written about this topic within the past three (or five) years. The specific date upon which I penned my last post pertaining to this peturbance was March 3, 2011. In my last discourse describing the disturbing detriments of too many directives I discussed the broad over-arching framework of too many rules. I still hold that opinion. This post, the one written today, is not a departure from my previous analysis, rather a more specific example of the broader problem, an elucidation of the sheer idiocy and voluminousness of regulations mandated by the committees that oversee a certain industry.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Sartorial Sleuth - The Well Dressed PI

I think we’ve lost our way. Casual Fridays, corporate logos, and “authentic” hipsterism have shoved proper style to the back of the closet.

Sam Spade

There was a time when men dressed like men. Search for 1920s men’s style and you’ll see. Watch an episode of MadMen and you’ll see. Hell, even stream an episode of Rockford on NetFlix, you’ll see. Men used to dress like men. They had style.

The old-school gumshoes, creations of Dashiell Hammett and his contemporaries, dressed like gentlemen - though, it seems that everyone in that era dressed to impress. Let’s be clear, the clothes do not make a man a gentleman. We’ll just accept as a given that being a gentleman is the foundation upon which we’ll build our wardrobe.

I spend a lot of time with federal agents, detectives, and other private investigators. The feds understand: they apparently have a dress code. Police detectives sometimes get it (see this story about best dressed detectives). PIs are, quite possibly, the worst.

Still, in my cadre of private dicks, there’s a sense of professionalism that seems to demand a higher standard.

In the office and at leisure – The PI as Professional – Dolling up for clients

Client Meeting
Office - Appearance is key, first impressions paramount. I never go to a client meeting, deposition, or court without dressing for the occasion. My clients expect a certain style from me. I wear denim often and am completely comfortable going to meet a long term client sporting a pair of jeans, mid-tan shoes and belt, pressed oxford cloth shirt, and an odd jacket, maybe even a bow tie.

That’s as casual as I get. For depositions, a pair of gabardine slacks, likely grey, nice sport coat, and definitely a tie. Court demands a suit, sometimes three-piece, but always a suit.

The minutia
These are fairly easy ideas to grasp. It’s the minutia that makes a difference. Ties, pocket squares, cuff-links, these small items add color and elegance to any outfit. Ties should be classic and colorful. Ties should never have products or cartoons patterned across them, never. Pocket squares should not match the tie, rather complement it. Again, color and quality are of utmost importance. Cuff-links should be metal, simple, and match your belt buckle and watch.

Leisure – Those of you who read the [FIND] Investigations blog on a regular basis know my fondness for a hand-crafted cocktail and fine wine. I love cocktail hour. Here in Nashville, we usually head to The Patterson House or the Oak Bar for cocktail hour. It amazes me how people show up to a classy bar in shorts and t-shirt.

When we host our Bow Ties and Bourbon events once a month at The Patterson House, everyone is encouraged to dress. The wonderful thing is this: a table full of judges, lawyers, investigators all in their finery somehow makes the whole joint feel classier, like a throwback to yesteryear, gentlemen and ladies behaving as such.

Again, these are the faces we show in our capacity as professionals. The real fun starts when the work begins.

In the field – The PI on surveillance – blending in

Assignment – Surveillance
Location – New Orleans
Weather – Sweltering hot with turgid skies
Time – 9:00 PM – until
Conveyance – Foot mobile

This is where creativity and a sense of style allow the professional investigator to blend in perfectly. 

Pocket Square and Seersucker
Last month we traveled to NOLA for a bit of sub-rosa work. Our team costumed to match the surroundings. White linen pants and a seersucker jacket, with a rich red pocket square, allowed us to melt into the background at Galatoires, all the while observing our subject and documenting his activities. We strolled, in a classic front-and-follow maneuver, across Canal Street to the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel over on Baronne, never once drawing unwanted attention. We sidled up to the bar and continued our surveillance (unfortunate mocktails in hand), the subject completely unawares. 

It’s not always like this. Sometimes you have to get down and dirty (trash collectors uniform, hard hat, safety-vest), but it’s the urban neighborhood surveillance that allows us to have a bit of fun, look like we give a shit, and blend in at the same time.

This little exercise in styling a PI for a specific job is our introduction to a quarterly column under the Sartorial Sleuth heading. We’re going to call this tri-monthly exercise The Sartorial Sleuth, dressed for success(ful surveillance).

Monday, August 8, 2011

Innovation : Investigation - Open your mind

[FIND] Lexicon: Innovation: noun \ˌi-nə-ˈvā-shən\ 1 : the introduction of something new 2 : a new idea, method, or device

Harvard business professor and acclaimed author Clay Christensen leads the way in studies of innovation, says the latest issue of The Economist. He penned three books on the topic over the last 15 years: "The Innovator's Dilemma," "Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns," and "The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators."

In the latter, Christensen cites five habits of mind that lead to disruptive innovation: associating, questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting.

Sounds a lot like the habits of mind required to be a solid investigator. Let's break it down:

Associating - Professional investigators, the ones with whom you would want to work, always seek to broaden their associations. When a new detective hangs her shingle, I try to reach out. There's always something to learn from another professional. From the obvious organizational associations (ACFE, AIIP, etc.) to the simple teaming up with another investigator (or company) to attack a problem, associating can lead you to new ideas and methods.

Questioning - This one is pretty obvious. We, as professional investigators, constantly question methods, practices, and approaches to problems. We question motives, actions, and behavior. Questioning our methods and practices, though, tends to lead to the highest return in innovation.

Observing - Again, this one is fairly self evident. We observe. Surveillance, research, study, all methods of observation that we employ on a daily basis. The best detectives, however, turn that methodical study of behavior on themselves and their competition as well as their subjects. Watch how other people do their work. There's always something one can learn.

Networking - Networking is key to any business, any endeavor, any social exercise. When traveling, [FIND] Investigations staff is encouraged to look up a local PI with whom to share a coffee or a cocktail. It's almost mandatory. The network of friends, investigators, LEO, and researchers we've built over the years is our primary source for help, referrals, and new ideas. I could go on and on on this point, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. - all fine tools, implements that allow us to grow a superficial network of "friends." But when it comes to people to whom you can turn for advice, direction, and assistance, a web of actual people is invaluable. With that web of real people, social networking tools (FB, TW, LI, etc.) become a way to maintain those relationships.

Experimenting - Always, always, always try new things. Sometimes you may push the envelope more than you should (maybe even face a criminal trespass charge along the way), but without trying new ideas, new methods, new tools, you will never grow as an investigator. I've heard way too many people in this profession say, "That's just how we've always done it." Well, the day I utter that phrase, please shoot me. [FIND] Investigations likes to partner with tech geeks and information nerds, anything to shift the POV and see a problem in a new way. Processes are good, standards are necessary, but if you never push, you'll never excel and certainly never be an innovator.

Final thoughts - Disruptive innovation, that leap or step forward that makes a "ding in the universe" requires an open mind. All of the traits detailed by Christensen hint at one basic tenet: keep your mind open.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

[FIND] Vice - Ratchet up Your Adrenaline with Sam Capra

Latest offering from Jeff Abbott
Sam Capra, the unassuming hero of Adrenaline, looks like Joe-anybody, doesn't stand out in a crowd. He's a wiry character, standing six feet tall, with dirty blond hair and blue eyes. And he runs Parkour for fun and fitness, vaulting himself over and up walls with grace and ease. He also, within one week of being introduced, propelled himself onto several best seller lists, 23 in the New York Times, 20 in Publishers Weekly, two of the standards in the industry.

We caught up with internationally acclaimed author Jeff Abbott (Capra's creator) between book signings and interviews on Friday afternoon last week. Abbott says of Capra, "Sometimes, because he's sort of trim and not a big bulky guy, the bad guys underestimate him.

"[Sam] can't handle everything that he gets into, that would be pretty boring," says Abbott. But he can hold his own.

Abbott has crafted in Capra a new kind of hero. He's good looking, but he doesn't know it. He's young for the genre, only 25 years old. But in spite of his youth, he's quick of wit, fleet of feet, and, thanks to world-traveling aid-worker parents and extensive CIA training, he's - well - extremely capable.

In one scene from Adrenaline, Abbott's 12th book, our hero Sam Capra faces a crew of roughnecks in a bar fight. "His first thought is you actually take the biggest guy down first," Abbott says, "That will affect the emotions of the others. This may not be true, but he's - that's how he's thinking -  strategically." That's about what one would expect from a recently defrocked CIA operative: efficient, thoughtful,  strategic - extremely capable.

Mr. Capra, in the course of this first-in-a-series novel, comes into ownership of a number of bars around the globe. While he's not prone to vice, Capra (like so many spies and PIs) savors a fine cocktail. Upon entering one of his newly acquired watering holes for the first time, Abbott says. "[Sam's] happy to see that they are mixing the cocktails with care."

So I think it's safe to say that were Capra to own a bar in Nashville, it would likely be The Patterson House, where they, as Abbot would say, "know what they are doing." For the [FIND] Vice cocktail pairing—this month with our newly introduced action hero, Sam Capra—James Hensley has lent us one of his favorite, hand-crafted summer drinks.

The Montgomery Fizz
2          oz        Tanqueray
1/8       oz        La Muse Vert Absinthe
3/4       oz        Fresh lime juice
3/4       oz        Ginger syrup
                     sprigs of mint
1                      Splash of tonic water and club soda
Bruise the mint in the bottom of a mixing tin and then add the other ingredients. Shake briefly and strain into a collins glass filled with ice. Top with a splash of tonic water and club soda. Garnish with a mint sprig and a piece of ginger candy.

*Two things you need to do right now: Pick up a copy of Adrenaline, by Jeff Abbott and drop by The Patterson House for a Montgomery Fizz. You'll be glad on both counts.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Tiny Fraud that Costs Billions

Today WBUR's Here and Now interviewed Rachel Shteir, author of a new book exploring shoplifting from historical, psychological, and philosophical points of view. To listen to the interview and read an excerpt of the book, click here.

Every year, shoplifting costs retailers billions, says Rachel Shteir, author of The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting. Here are a few more facts she compiled, in her comprehensive exploration of this widespread but ill-understood crime:
  • In 2009, a survey estimated shoplifting losses at $11.69 billion annually. (source: University of Forida National Retail Security Survey)
  • Shoplifting increases the price we pay for goods every year by about $400.
  • In 2008, an estimated 1,000,000 shoplifting offenses were committed. (source: Dept. of Justice survey, "Uniform Crime Reports")
  • In 2008, shoplifting stats spiked in some cities, climbing 18.7% in Long Beach, CA and 40.6% in L.A. (source: UCR)
  • Store security catches an estimated 1 in 48 incidences of shoplifting. (source: National Association for Shoplifting Prevention)
Retailers and private security companies are reluctant to talk about this epidemic, as we learned when our own Thomas Humphreys, PI reported on shoplifting for Marketplace two years ago. (Gumshoe Finds Who's Got Sticky Fingers, Marketplace, Oct. 2009) We also learned that even though many retailers may feel that an economic downturn fuels people's "need" to steal, the facts are more difficult to pin down.
Our law enforcement sources insist that shoplifters aren't usually stealing out of need, and Shteir agrees. She says their motives are far more complicated, and differ widely. Some steal out of a sense of perceived grievance: I deserve this thing. Others are looking for a dose of excitement or danger: Think Winona Ryder. And many simply want a luxury item they can't afford. After speaking with dozens of admitted shoplifters, Shteir concludes that there are no easy answers, and offers this insight:

"Many shoplifters see themselves as escape artists, stealing out of inscrutable cravings and unexamined desires. Having lost their old solaces, people shoplift as an anodyne against grief or to avenge themselves against uncontrollable forces or as an act of social aggression, to hurl themselves away from their identities as almost-have-nots. Whatever form shoplifting takes, it is as difficult to stamp out as oil spills or alcoholism." - excerpted from The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting, by Rachel Shteir

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Sartorial Sleuth: Dressing for the Southern Summer Swelter

Linen and seersucker in NOLA
It's July in Tennessee. It is hot, painfully hot. A sticky, drippy, thick morass of hot. I have friends who refuse to wear shorts, except in the pursuit of some athletic feat. I have friends who refuse, simply refuse, to be seen in public without at least a sport coat (odd jacket). There are, however, times when it's just not practical to dress to the nines, at least in our line of work. July in the South is one of those times.

We, of the [FIND] team slogged our way south to New Orleans a couple of weeks ago. It was hot, painfully hot...we scorched our way south along 65 and 59, through Birmingham, Hattiesburg, and Picayune, chasing puddles that disappeared as we drew closer to New Orleans in the peak of mid-afternoon swelter. 

Two things I always carry when traveling around the South. A good quality straw hat, and a guayabera shirt. The former is a personal style choice that, I would suggest, deserves some serious consideration. The latter, well, the guayabera is difficult.

The Hat - Lately, young hipsters across the nation wear hats again, cool hats, slick hats, hats with brims so narrow, they look almost comical. Very few of them actually pull the look off. Most, in fact, look like either a caricature of some 1950's dandy or a hayseed rube about to open a closet that will empty onto their heads in fine slapstick fashion. There are some, however, who nail it. 

My bartender gets it. Patrick rarely penetrates the out-of-doors without a top on. He wears a vintage variation on the Stetson carry hat, in black, dark grey, and a beautiful taupe. The brims on Patrick's hats  rarely exceed two inches but are never less than one-and-a-half. He wears them straight up, not cocked to the side or tipped precariously on the back of his crown. If you want to see a perfect example of a man who understands men's hat style and how to do it, just swing by Rumours Wine Bar on 12th South in Nashville. Ask for Patrick, or just look for the dapper young man in the cool hat.

I have a huge head and broad shoulders. I've searched for years for the perfect hat. I have a Borsellino that fits, is exquisitely crafted, and somehow still doesn't quite work. I have owned a number of stingy-brimmed-hipster-hats over the years, but they just look silly. I found, three years ago, at Meyer the Hatter in NOLA, the perfect hat for me. The Biltmore Milan, center crease (since re-blocked), is my hat. It fits. It looks classic. It looks nice, without looking too spiffy. I wear this hat almost all summer long. Casual or dressy, it just works - for me.

Humpreys sports a Biltmore Milan at the Cafe du Monde
The Shirt - In the last Sartorial Sleuth entry, we discussed the finer points of seersucker as a weapon to defeat the heat. Sometimes, though, especially in our business, a suit or even an odd jacket is just too much. So, the question stands: how do you look like a man of style and wear a short sleeved shirt?

T-shirts: no. Especially the ironic kind. Seriously, we're grown ups. (exceptions include: beach, boats, canoes, and most sporting endeavors)

Short sleeved dress shirts: Dilbert. I cannot stress this enough: there is no way to look like a stylish, even non-idiotic, person in a short-sleeved-bepocketed-button-down-oxford-cloth-shirt, not possible at all.

The only shirt I've found that scratches my itch for comfort and style is the classic dictator's man-blouse, the guayabera. The guayabera, like a bow-tie, takes a bit of stones to execute successfully. You kinda have to just go for it. But the benefits abound.
Hit or miss? Your call.
Style: From the fat-guy-golf-friendly cubavera (which I don't suggest) to the hand-crafted-Cuban-made custom (which I do suggest), there are colors, fabrics, and variations on the cut that can suit any man. I prefer classic white linen or a cotton blend in a subdued color (earth tone or black). I own two of these shirts, one black and one white, both purchased at Meyer the Hatter in New Orleans, both perfect for a casual night on the town. 

If you're working surveillance in the Quarter, shorts and a black guayabera blend in perfectly. If you're stepping out with your lady for a glass of red wine, black guayabera and a pair of off white linen slacks looks fantastic (careful with the red wine and linen pants). Likewise, a pair of Imogene + Willie jeans paired with a white guayabera looks absolutely stylish.

I know that some of you will disagree. I know that some of you prefer to maintain a facade of sartorial snobbery that excludes the lesser forms of style. But, there are times when it's just too &^%$#@! hot to wear a suit. It's okay to look good and be comfortable at the same time. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

All Investigations Lead to...Porn?

It all started with a joke.

"All investigations seem to lead to pornography," quipped Ryan Hubbs, a senior manager for Matson, Driscoll & Damico, Forensic Accountants, chatting with a group of colleagues at an ACFE conference a few years ago.

Hubbs had spotted an odd pattern. Time after time, as he investigated claims of contractor fraud or embezzlement, he'd uncover a little something on the side, such as additional accusations of bullying or harassment or, most frequently, pornography downloaded onto an accused employee's computer.

His joke struck a nerve. "We started talking about it," he recalls, "and everybody else said, 'You know, I've had some cases where after we did the forensic analysis, we found the guy was also investigated for sexual harassment.'" That's when Hubbs started to wonder whether what he was seeing was mere coincidence, or correlation.

"The correlation is somewhere between zero and a hundred percent," Hubbs jokes, admitting that he's no social scientist. Plenty of people, he contends, have glanced at a sexy photo or two online without ever going on to commit fraud. He's reluctant to draw any absolute conclusions about correlation or causality.

But as a professional fraud examiner, he is a keen observer of human behavior. And in his fascinating lecture at the San Diego ACFE conference in June, he shared those observations and posed a question to fellow investigators: What if we could search out fraudsters by zeroing in on employees who download porn or have been reported for bullying or harassing co-workers? Is there a strong enough correlation between outright fraud and other "deviant" behaviors to use those behaviors as markers?

Hubbs defines deviant behavior as any practice that falls outside of the law, societal norms, or company policies. And although looking at girlie pictures might be considered a ubiquitous enough practice to fall within societal norms on one's own time, it's still not considered an acceptable work activity, and it carries with it certain risks to employers. "Not only do you have hostile work claims which can (lead to) lawsuits," he says. "But in doing these types of investigations over the years, I've seen some people continue to spiral down, from regular nudity to hard-core porn…and some individuals move into the child porn arena.

"Imagine if they save that onto the main server," Hubbs adds. "When the FBI comes in…they take the whole server."

Deviance is relative, Hubbs admits. "What is deviant behavior today might not be deviant behavior 20 years from now." And he says that most of us do things every day that might deviate from laws, norms, or workplace policies.

But a good investigator with strong instincts about human behavior and motivations, he asserts, might be able to sniff out financial malfeasance by focusing on patterns of behavior that reveal an employee's or contractor's…proclivities. If a person tends towards risky behaviors, like downloading thousands of pornographic images onto his work computer or texting inappropriate messages or images to co-workers, he might also take risks in other ways, like fudging expenses or rigging bids.

Hubbs's hypothesis has fellow investigators intrigued. He gets lots of questions he can't answer, because there's just not enough research out there yet to support his ideas with hard numbers. He's not offering a solution, just posing a challenge to his colleagues to observe and find out more.

"Look, I just kind of kicked this ball onto the court," he says. "You guys can take it any direction you want to go. This is an observation that I had over the years, and wanted to pose it to the rest of the populace to see if it's useful and what else can we learn from this."  

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Sartorial Sleuth - Here's how it's done

Dr. Churchwell, via A Suitable Wardrobe

Kim and I pedaled our bikes down 12th Avenue South on Sunday night in search of a cool glass of wine. Our usual haunt, Rumours, was closed for the night, so we dismounted and walked our bicycles across 12th, chained them to the bench in front of Fish & Co. and strolled inside, sweaty and ready for a drink.

A family of four sat in the booth directly behind us. They were trying to watch the Cubs v. Yankee's game and we were in their line of sight. I recognized the man at the table. Had I met him in the course of work? Had I seen him in court? From the neighborhood?

Then it hit me: I've been studying this man's style for the past several months on A Suitable Wardrobe, one of the best style blogs around. Dr. Andre Churchwell, Nashville's best dressed man. I introduced myself and told him of my semi-stalking practices. He smiled that beautiful smile and introduced Kim and me to his family.

Kim noticed his carnation and commented that I should adopt that practice. Dr. Churchwell entertained us for the next few minutes with a history of the carnation, the button on the lapel, and its importance to Napoleon's army.

In lieu of a long-winded post with my personal ideas of style, I point you now to A Suitable Wardrobe and the series of posts titled, Man In Style. Thank you Dr. Churchwell for a wonderful evening and thank you Will for bringing Dr. Churchwell to our attention.

[FIND] Lexicon - Discourse Analysis

"In the end, discourse analysis is one way to engage in a very important human task. The task is this: to think more deeply about the meanings we give people's words so as to make ourselves better, more humane people and the world a better, more humane place."
- J. P. Gee 

Don Rabon, former Deputy Director of the North Carolina Department of Justice, recently gave a lecture at the ACFE 22nd Annual Fraud Conference. Mr. Rabon is quite possibly a genius. After listening intently for 80 minutes about interview techniques, tied logically to historical literature (Interviewing From Head to Poe), I found myself lost in words; the dissection of words, the parsing of sentences, and the importance of listening and recording (documenting).

I left the class and near sprinted to the ACFE Bookstore, set up in the voluminous exhibit hall, and picked up my first Don Rabon book, Investigative Discourse Analysis. I read the book on the way home on a long flight from San Diego back to Nashville. It's a language nerd's dream.

Upon arriving back at my office the following day, I tried a small experiment. Several months ago a long time client asked me to look into a couple of emails he had received. They weren't necessarily threatening, but they were - just mean. We tried to identify the sender and have a strong idea who the passive-aggressive-cyber-punk was. We could not, however, tie them specifically to the emails. They used a gmail account, more on that at a later date, which when used properly is a fantastic way to mask one's identity.

We did have one email from the suspected ill-meaning-emailer denying all knowledge of the affair. Well, I put that denial email, the statement, under serious scrutiny using Mr. Rabon's book as a guide.

Structure - The email, the suspect's statement, showed structural imbalance, indicating that it was deceptive on its form. The anonymous-jackass-email-fiend told her account of the incident. The prologue made up roughly 10% of the narrative. The actual event (the sending of the email) took up 30%. The remaining 60% of the text was dedicated to the epilogue and a string of negations and denials. Structurally, this narrative is seriously indicative of deception, but it was the analysis of specific words that caught my attention.

Word Choice - The disgruntled-email-bully used the pronoun I, exclusively, throughout the first part of the email. She switched to a near exclusive use of the pronoun Me in the last part of the narrative. Indicating that she had somehow a passive role, almost a victim.

Sentence Length - When the narrative turned to the actual event, her Mean Length of Utterance (MLU) dropped from a Mean of 13.3 to truncated sentences of 5 to 7 words or less. Further indication of deception.

Other issues - The denial email, which again equated to a statement, had several other issues. The most interesting point I noted in the email was the bookending of the statement, first sentence and last sentence, with abjuration (I don't mean to upset you, but...).

I would not feel comfortable approaching a court, a lawyer, or a jury with my brief analysis. I do not possess the skill and training to apply this type of analysis in detail or for court testimony. I do, however, feel comfortable that we now know, based an analysis of the denial email, who wrote the original string of nasty notes.

This, for me, falls into the category of simply cool. If you get the chance, click over to Amazon or the ACFE bookstore and pick up a copy of Don Rabon's book, Investigative Discourse Analysis.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

ACFE Fraud Conference - Day 3

All of the sessions today, at least the ones I attended, were informative and entertaining. The class on interview skills was particularly creative. Don Rabon, the North Carolinian with the brilliant southern accent and winner of the ACFE speaker of the year award, managed to tie interview skills to literary references from Shakespeare to Poe. Mr. Rabon clicked his way through a deck of slides and videos like a presenter at a TED conference. If you ever have the chance, take a class, any class, taught by Don Rabon, do it.

The cocktail party on the roof of the Hard Rock Cafe extended well past the allotted two and a half hours. It seems these fraud fighters know how to throw a party. Great chance to hang out with some old friends and meet several new friends.

More later.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

ACFE Fraud Conference - Day 2

As usual, The ACFE has hosted a magnificent event. From the opening ceremony to the last session of the day, entertaining and informative.

I particularly enjoyed the talk from Joan Pastor in the morning general session. Ms. Pastor took the podium after the opening speeches and owned the room for far too short a time. I could have listened to her all morning. I am officially begging the ACFE to bring her back for more.

My favorite part of the day, aside from the evening cocktails, was a presentation on how technology has changed fraud investigation. Jean-Francois Legault is a large man, very large man, with a personality to match. He is a perfect example of the level of professionalism and skill that the ACFE has amassed. Professional experience paired with presentation skills, and what appears to be a very healthy avoidance of the standard bullet-point-boresome-PowerPoint-sleep-aid usually employed by Conference speakers. Thank you Mr. Legault.

Assuming I have the energy, I'll try and post again this afternoon. We'll see.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

ACFE Fraud Conference - Day 1 (Part 2)

As usual, the ACFE delivers with a great educational offering, Social Networking. Ms. Hetherington put on a fantastic show. @data2know...She fishes, plays golf, and fights fraud... How cool can a person be.

ACFE Fraud Conference - Day 1 (part 1)

I got in last night around 7:00. Checked in, settled in, and struck out in search of a good martini. Found one at Royal India. There was an ACFE sign in the window.

This morning I strolled the Gaslamp and noticed that most restaurants have an ACFE sign in the window, including the Gaslamp Strip Club, which gave me pause. Turns out it's a steak house.

Not sure what to expect from the next several days, but I'm looking forward to learning a lot and meeting some good people.

More later.

Friday, May 27, 2011

[FIND] Vice - Jim Rockford

"This is Jim Rockford. At the tone leave your name and message; I'll get back to you." - Answering machine message at the Rockford Agency.

It's sometimes hard to craft a story about someone you idolize. Jim Rockford, for lots of people my age and older, is the iconic modern private investigator. There were others before and of course there's magnum and that passel of PIs that came later, but Rockford is, for many, simply the best.

He lived in a trailer (that seconded as an office), drove a gold Pontiac Firebird, and owned a handgun that, according to him, "I just point it. I don't shoot." Rockford entertained flight attendants on layover, continuously bothered his cop buddies, and spent quality time with his old man, Rocky (see photo at right). 
He was, as was the era, a bit of a sartorial mess. But he had a life that most men envied. 

An ex-con: "I was pardoned." 

An optimist: "Yeah but look at it this way, an inch or two to the left and he'd have missed me completely." 

A fair fighter: "Ow. If I could do that without a roll of quarters in my hand, I'd be a terror." 

A coiner of classic phrases: "Freeze turkey!"

The Rockford Files was a virtual one-liner factory and James Gardner could deliver those lines like no other. So, it is with respect, admiration, and honor that we at [FIND] Investigations bring you this months [FIND] Vice:

The Cocktail - actually a guest post from our friends over at Q103 in Albany, NY, with the perfect tag line: Go Rock (ford) Yourself. Thank you Brian Bushner, Digital Program Director at Townsquare Media for a fantastic guest appearance here at [FIND] Vice. Here's what Brian has to say:

I’m a huge fan of Classic TV shows –  call it part of my nerd charm. I watch The Rockford Files nearly every night and I’m pretty annoyed that NBC is so out of ideas that they are going to remake this classic. So I ask the big question: what would Jim Rockford drink?
When Jim wasn’t being shot at while working on a case that he'd likely never get paid for, he enjoyed sitting in his trailer eating Oreos, or going out to a good steak dinner, or a spicy taco from his favorite restaurant, Casa Taco. Jim always had a beer too with that stuff. Usually it was in a can at home or what I’m pretty sure was a lager at a restaurant or bar.
Beer was pretty boring in the mid to late 1970s. Beers popular at that time included Miller High Life, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Schlitzand a very limited supply of imported beers for variety.  Things started getting better when the ban on homebrewing was lifted in October 1978. The entire microbrewery movement is a fairly recent thing too.
Basically, Rockford was a beer lover with limited options. But if he could sip a cold one today,  here are a few I'd like to pair with his favorite three foods:
Oreos – best known for dunking in milk, dunk in beer at your own risk. I’d say a chocolate and vanilla stout. Breckenridge Brewery makes an awesome vanilla stout, and the Creme Brulee Stout from Southern Tier Brewing Company goes perfectly with Oreos. Very vanilla scent, along with some chocolate and both scents translate to flavor. 
Steak dinner? I’d go with the Brown Ale from Brooklyn Brewery, a great beer which isn’t too heavy. It goes well with a hearty meal, and the flavor pairing with steak is phenomenal. This beer smells like maple and brown sugar. The sweet chestnut flavors mixed with beef (especially grilled) plays a symphony of delight in your mouth. This beer has a low alcohol content so it’s okay to have a second one because once you taste the flavor combinations you’ll want to keep the flavor flowing.
Jim also liked a “spicy taco” from a fictional local joint. Usually I suggest anything with lots of hops, like an IPA, with a spicy food because the hops help cool the burn and the bitter + spicy flavor contrast is one of my favorites. 

Let’s pair Redhook ESB with the spicy taco. The sweet/butter flavors with the spice kicks the flavor up a notch. There are enough hops in this beer to take it a step further and have it with a spicy fish taco. If you take a sip of this as a chaser, the fish flavor returns for a second quick round. It’s a neat flavor trick!
Not sure if Jim would actually drink all that but it was fun to speculate, no?
Thanks again to our friends over at Albany's very own Q103, Go Rock Yourself.
The Cigar - Actually a cigar
By: Joe Zike, Cigar Expert, formerly of UpTown's Smoke Shop

Padron 1926 Anniversary Series
Length: 5-1/2" 
Ring Gauge: 52
Filler: Nicaraguan
Binder: Nicaraguan
Wrapper: Nicaraguan Maduro
Rockford knows how to relax, and he's going to need to after getting caught up in his friends' activities, a bathroom brawl or two, and a car chase in his Pontiac Firebird. He'll take time out to go fishing, and he's gonna bring a cigar along. It'd be the Padron 1926 Anniversary Series #2 maduro. Its dark wrapper gives the cigar a creamy undertone. As the cigar smokes, peppery spice and hickory notes alternate and are kept in check by the creamy undertone. Whether he catches any fish or not doesn't matter. 

On a personal note: We said a temporary goodbye to out friend Joe last Wednesday night. He's off to Germany for a summer internship at journalism school. We're proud of Joe and we wish him well. Give us a call when you get back this direction, we'll share a cigar and a glass of wine at Rumours.