Business Disputes: Reporting a Business Partner to Law Enforcement

Posted by William J. Piercy on

 If you are considering reporting a business partner to law enforcement, think twice. Doing so can sometimes create more problems than it solves.

Most business disputes are best resolved by discussing potential remedies with an attorney and crafting a strategy toward achieving a favorable outcome. That said, there may be times when it is prudent, or even necessary, to report what you believe to be the criminal behavior of a business partner to law enforcement. For example, if you learn that your business partner is defrauding customers or the government, you may need to call the police.

Let’s say you’ve determined that reporting a business partner to law enforcement is, in fact, necessary. How do you go about reporting conduct relating to a business partner? It may be tempting to rattle off everything questionable your partner has ever done. But doing so may get you sued by your partner.  Worse, the police might investigate you as well. Additionally, involving law enforcement means news of the dispute could travel more quickly, inviting unwanted scrutiny.  Below is a list of tips for relaying your partner’s acts to the police while minimizing your own exposure to risk.

10 Tips When Reporting A Business Partner to Law Enforcement

  1. Never report a “crime” or use words associated with criminal acts like “theft” or “embezzlement.” Instead, use something less accusatory like “Bob’s conduct.” Leave it up to law enforcement to determine—and characterize—what constitutes a crime.
  2. Report facts, and only facts. Do not fill in the gaps with your own speculations, allegations, or editorializations.
  3. Understand, and convey to the authorities, that once you make the report, whether criminal charges are pursued is up to the police and the prosecutor. While you will support the authorities either way and provide witness testimony if needed, you are not advocating for a specific outcome.
  4. Meet the police at the station by appointment. This makes it convenient for the officers and does not inadvertently invite them to look around your home or place of business.
  5. Bring supporting evidence, if available. Do nothing to manipulate or alter those records, even if you think it would be helpful to do so.
  6. Do not take company records or other company property in anticipation of a fallout from you involving the police. This could expose you to allegations of theft.
  7. If you contact law enforcement, commit to cooperating completely with the investigation. Half-hearted help will not win you any friends with the authorities.
  8. Do not issue an ultimatum on your business partner that you will call the police unless he or she grants you some concessions. This threat could be characterized as extortion.
  9. Do not discuss your business partner’s actions or your desire to involve the police with other business associates or employees. If your partner gets word of this, he may retaliate or try to cover up their wrongdoing. This makes it more difficult for law enforcement to discover the criminal conduct, if it does exist. You may also find yourself defending a defamation claim.
  10. If you haven’t already, meet with an attorney to discuss your options.

By following these guidelines, you can help ensure that a bad business partner is brought to justice, while insulating yourself from personal liability and unwanted scrutiny.