Internal Investigations

Investigations:  Higher Education, Sports, Business, Employers, and Agencies

Often, a prompt, thorough, and skilled internal investigation allows an institution to not only comply with legal obligations, but to learn critical facts, regain the confidence of important constituencies, and pave the way for improved organizational performance. Such investigations are also critically important to prepare adequately for potential investigation or actions by law enforcement and regulatory agencies.  Prince Lobel’s attorneys have conducted many internal investigations involving important and sensitive matters. The types of investigations we have conducted include:

Investigations for Colleges and Universities

Prince Lobel has conducted internal investigations in both high-profile, and very public campus controversies, and in more behind-the-scenes disputes. Each requires great sensitivity to the unique needs of institutions of higher education and the various constituencies that may have an interest in the outcome (e.g., administration, faculty, students, alumni, donors, etc.).

Case Study: Investigation for Brandeis University

In 2018, Prince Lobel was hired by the Board of Trustees of Brandeis University to conduct an in-depth independent investigation following Brandeis’ termination of its longtime men’s basketball coach amid charges of racism and abusive behavior towards his players. Prince Lobel was asked to review the University’s systems, climate, and culture of handling complaints, and to recommend actions and changes. Firm lawyers interviewed over 150 witnesses, including students, faculty, alumni, administrators, and staff. Two significant reports were issued that the University’s President chose to publish on the University’s website. The firm’s attorneys also met with the Board of Trustees to discuss both reports and the critical findings on the climate and culture on campus.

Other representative investigations for colleges and universities include the following:

  • Conducted an investigation into the hiring practices for upper level administrative positions at a major university after a department chair who was not appointed to a senior position at the university claimed unlawful discrimination
  • Investigated the allegations of a professor who was not appointed to the position of provost after the professor claimed that the university failed to provide a reasonable accommodation
  • Conducted an investigation regarding charges of disarray and animosity within an academic department
  • Investigated charges of racism at a major university’s soccer program
  • Conducted investigation of bullying allegations against a college coach
  • Investigated allegations of hazing within a college sports program
  • Investigated a professor’s charge that his department’s reliance on critical student evaluations was the result of institutional racism
  • Conducted an in-depth review and analysis of a medical school’s protocols for reporting diagnostic information

Sports Investigations

Prince Lobel has deep experience conducting investigations in the world of sports. Each sport has a unique culture, set of rules, governance and constituencies (e.g., athletes, parents, patrons, and the media). Allegations of wrongdoing are frequently high-profile and high-stakes. We are expert at skillfully navigating these complex waters. Our clients have included professional and amateur leagues, Olympic National Governing Bodies, and college sports programs.

Case Study: Investigation for USA Weightlifting

In October 2020, Prince Lobel was engaged to conduct an investigation for USA Weightlifting, the National Governing Body for Olympic Weightlifting. The investigation looked into certain allegations of race discrimination and retaliation in the sport, and more broadly at USA Weightlifting’s policies, procedures, and climate. Led by Walter Prince and Dan Tarlow, Prince Lobel’s team conducted a comprehensive investigation, involving interviews with 46 witnesses from all corners of the sport. USA Weightlifting committed at the outset to make the investigation team’s full report public. (–Inclusion)

Other sports-related investigations conducted by Prince Lobel include:

  • Investigated charges of racism at a major university’s soccer program
  • Conducted investigation of bullying allegations against a college coach
  • Investigated allegations of hazing within college sports program
  • Investigated atmosphere within college basketball program amid charges of racism and abusive behavior by coach
  • Conducted an investigation for a soccer league related to an ethics complaint lodged by one member club against another member club
  • Conducted an investigation related to charges of inappropriate social media conduct by a coach on behalf of a soccer club

Corporate Internal Investigations

Prince Lobel has a long history of conducting internal investigations for public and non-public companies into such matters as whistleblower reports and alleged fraudulent or illegal business practices.

Some representative investigations are as follows:

  • Represented a major health care provider in investigating, uncovering and prosecuting an employee who committed a long term fraudulent scheme. The firm helped the client to recover a substantial amount of money stolen over a period of years
  • Represented management of a manufacturing business in connection with internal investigation of employee receiving kick-backs from foreign supplier.  As a result, the entire amount of the client’s loss was recovered
  • Represented a biopharmaceutical company in connection with an internal investigation relating to potentially inaccurate clinical trial data which could have materially affected the company’s value
  • Conducted an investigation of allegations of insider trading for a public biopharma company
  • Investigated a whistleblower’s allegations that a public company misrepresented information in its financial reports
  • Conducted an investigation for a professional services firm relating to allegations of improper billing practices.

Data Breach Investigations

We help our clients coordinate and manage data breach or data incident responses, frequently while supervising a team of third-party computer and information technology forensic professionals.  We also assist our clients with any regulatory inquiries, investigations or resulting enforcement actions, as well defend our clients in private civil litigation actions, including putative class action litigation.

Representing clients who have experienced, directly or through vendors and service providers, potential or actual security breaches often requires assessment of notification requirements under applicable breach notification laws (foreign and domestic); directing forensic investigation of threat vectors for security breaches; careful communication with federal, state, local, law enforcement and other Investigative personnel; establishing mandatory or desired remediation responses for customers or employees, and then on-going support of crisis response efforts including customer relations guidance, call center establishment, and public relations and crisis communications.

Some recent investigations include:

  • Investigating several breach incidents related to email phishing, spear-phishing and social engineering schemes directed at construction contractors, cannabis cultivators, professional service firms;
  • Investigation of potential insider-threats resulting in the improper dissemination of confidential and protected employee data or financial information;
  • Investigation of spoof email attacks resulting in the fraudulent diversion of ordinary course vendor payments to criminals.

Employment Investigations

Prince Lobel’s employment law group has conducted dozens of investigations for employers regarding allegations of workplace misconduct, including discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. With a skilled and diverse group of employment attorneys, who are adept at conducting interviews on sensitive topics.   Prince Lobel is able to help employers respond in a prompt and effective manner to allegations of wrongdoing in the work place.

Some recent investigations include:

  • Conducted sexual harassment investigation concerning allegations that a manager acted inappropriately towards subordinate during Zoom meetings
  • Conducted a sexual harassment investigation for a prominent restaurant group, where the allegations were potentially explosive in the “Me Too” era
  • Conducted an investigation for a media and technology company after an employee alleged that several employees were subjected to a hostile work environment because of their race and gender
  • Investigated allegations of gender discrimination with respect to manager’s decision to demote female subordinate
  • Investigated complaint of manager bullying in large, highly specialized, manufacturing facility
  • Investigated allegations of hostile work environment arising out of company sponsored social event
  • Investigated allegations of sexual orientation discrimination with respect to assignments and career advancement

Investigation for Public Authorities and Agencies

Prince Lobel has represented public authorities and agencies in the Commonwealth for more than 30 years. In addition to several employment investigations described above, Prince Lobel has investigated a number of ethics or compliance-related complaints.

Representative matters include the following:

  • Conducted investigation for municipality regarding city’s alleged retaliatory use of police and fire department code enforcement officers to intimidate former city employee who was quoted in local media complaining about race discrimination by the city
  • Investigated allegations of bullying and gender-based harassment by a superior officer toward a subordinate within a police department
  • Conducted an investigation for a public authority concerning potential abuses in its minority enterprise contracting program
  • Conducted an ethics investigation for a public authority concerning a manager’s potential misuse of agency personnel and assets
  • Investigated allegations of violation of conflict of interest rules with respect to senior manager’s close relationship with significant vendor