Strategy Tips for Asset Searches
Recently we were hired to track down a man who defaulted on a million dollar judgment against him by our clients. The man's family owned and operated a successful retail business. Since the judgment against him, the man had declared bankruptcy. He alleged that he no longer had income from or access to his family's vast business fortune.
Our client suspected that this was far from the truth, and that perhaps the man was still affiliated with the family business. They asked us to connect him to the company.
We tried a number of ways. We visited the family’s retail business in person, but we didn’t find any suggestion that the man was still working there.
So we moved on to the paper trail. For instance,
- We looked at all the company’s public records, including property records, credit agreements, UCCs, incorporation documents, and the like. Unfortunately, he had successfully kept his name off anything affiliated with the business.
- We reviewed all the company paperwork filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office. We thought we’d caught him then, because his name was on the company’s application for a trademark. But the application had been filed pre-bankruptcy. For all intents and purposes, it was useless to us.
- We looked over the company's customs records, but they proved equally disappointing. The man was on file as the receiver of shipments of raw materials from South America, but all the shipments had been signed for prior to the bankruptcy. Records for shipments since the bankruptcy were incomplete and therefore inconclusive.
How did we eventually make the link between the man and his family’s company? By picking up the phone. As mentioned earlier, at the start of the investigation we had visited the business but hadn’t found any indication that the man was there. But guess who answered the phone when we called a few weeks later? The man himself. Sure enough, when we dropped by a few minutes after the call was made, there he was in the flesh.
We wrote about this in "Sorting and Unsorting Facts"—investigations are not linear. Sometimes investigators have to do things over and over again in the hopes of getting a different result. In this instance, if we had not doubled back and tried once again to connect him physically to the store, we’d never have made the connection.
If we'd limited ourselves to the paper trail, we’d also have fallen short.
It's just like your mother told you: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Perseverance may be all that makes the difference between success and failure.