Pre-employment background checks are vital for every new hire, however certain executive titles and responsibilities require screenings with special sensitivities. One recent case presented specific issues:
Artus Group was hired by a longtime investment client to conduct a background investigation into a potential CFO, who of course would have extensive fiduciary duties including authority to write checks on behalf of the firm. The final candidate’s résumé was impressive: an MBA from a major university; multiple professional certifications corresponding with the applied position; and a career of financial positions spanning over a decade. The candidate was impressive and the client was anxious to bring him on board. Not so fast…
The first issue stemmed from his public records: Five years’ prior he had been sued by a former employer for writing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of checks on behalf of the company to himself, his friends, and businesses created by his friends. Our inquiries with the company – we’ll call it Company A, revealed that the candidate had initially admitted to writing fraudulent checks totaling much less than the company ultimately found, presumably in the hopes that they wouldn’t keep digging. However, Company A’s investigation revealed the staggering extent of his fraud. The candidate was fired, Company A brought suit to recover damages, and police were involved. Despite all that, due to the geographic location of Company A and the candidate, none of this information was available online or through databases – we found everything through painstaking onsite review of court and police records in multiple jurisdictions. And with the candidate’s common name, this was no small feat.
As if that wasn’t enough, our further research revealed that the candidate had not received his MBA, nor had he even started classes within the university’s Master’s program. His professional certifications were both confirmed not to be him, although his common name listed other persons by name with those credentials for each certification: it took numerous diligent telephone calls to the right persons in the right department at each agency to confirm that the candidate was not certified – something that online research alone could not differentiate, as the websites didn’t provide anything but a name.
The lies continued: He stated on his résumé that after his tenure with Company A, he immediately joined another firm as controller, which we’ll call Company B. The candidate failed to reference the one-year gap after he was fired from Company A. Telephonic inquiries with the CEO at Company B revealed that not only had the candidate never worked at Company B, that this was the third time a potential employer had called regarding the candidate’s prior employment, which was totally fabricated. Indeed, further research determined that the subject had not been hired by any company in a financial capacity for over two years, and had instead worked as a laborer.
Further still, because of the financial nature of the position, we were able to include a report of the candidate’s credit history as part of the background check, which indicated dozens of delinquent accounts, accounts in collection, and unpaid balances written off. (We note that by law, a credit check is not permissible in many states unless the job position fits certain exemptions – it is state specific and exemptions vary from state to state.)
And the scary thing? This candidate will possibly continue submitting the same résumé to company after company until one of them doesn’t conduct an adequate background check. Has he learned his lesson? Possibly. Will he do it again? Hopefully not, but the evidence speaks for itself – there’s a good chance and he may ultimately join a company that allows him access to their finances.
We’ve been conducting pre-employment checks for over 20 years – for local companies, private companies, public companies, Fortune 500 companies, investment firms, manufacturing companies, technology firms and in the service industries – all around the country, and two things are absolutely certain: 1) a candidate can put anything on their résumé and 2) it takes special skill, perseverance, deep knowledge of the process, extensive resources and diligence to weed out the actual from the fictional.
Many screening firms offer basic elements for their clients that include online criminal history checks, sex offender and watch list searches, plus basic employment verifications. But many of those companies report online data only (from states, counties and courts that don’t even report their data online or through databases!) and their telephone inquiries are outsourced overseas. Our bottom line is that in no aspect of business can the following statement be more applicable: you get what you pay for.
Conducting thorough and accurate background checks may not be inexpensive, but hiring just one individual like the candidate above can undo a company. Why even take the chance?