At some point in your career, you may be contacted by reporters as a protection agent or as an investigator for information relating to a topic in which you may not want to discuss, or you may be ethically opposed to commenting, or perhaps you are not legally allowed to discuss due to an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). Here are some tips on handling these occurrences.
Advice for dealing with reporters:
Avoid written communication – just don’t respond. Don’t answer or return calls, but if caught on the phone – with an even, calm voice/tone say:
“I do not have the information or ability to answer that question and I have no further comment on the matter. I also do not give my permission to use my name, my likeness or any quotes as I have not offered any.”
Things to consider:
- Reporters will sneak in questions and do not need to disclose what is ‘on the record’ or ‘off the record’ so be careful with every word you say and only say what you don’t mind being recorded or used in an article.
- Reporters do not need permission to name you or use anything you write or say.
- Reporters will lie to get you to agree or give comment. (I.E. “we spoke to your associates and they all confirmed you were involved…”)
- Do not forget: Assume everything you say is being recorded.
Read More: Recording Laws Per State
What about “Privileged Communication” as a Private Investigator?
Federal Case Law on non-attorneys being protected under the attorney client privilege: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE v. LOUIS KOVEL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT
In which an accountant leveraged such privilege and did not answer questions relating to client communications as they were privileged under attorney-client privilege because the information/advice was supporting court proceedings.
“The assistance of these agents being indispensable to his work and the communications of the client being often necessarily committed to them by the attorney or by the client himself, the privilege must include all the persons who act as the attorney’s agents.” 8 Wigmore, Evidence, § 2301; Annot., 53 A.L.R. 369 (1928)
Attorney-client privilege is not typically extended to third party consultants, which is the standard arrangement when hiring a private investigator. However, if the communication between a client or attorney and his private investigator is for the express purpose of obtaining advice or discussing strategy for a case at hand, then a private investigator does receive attorney-client privilege. Most of the work provided by a private investigator will fall under attorney work-product – a privilege under an attorney’s guidance of strategy, theory, notes and communication to and from others. Work-product privilege allows attorneys to prepare for a case knowing the opposing side cannot have access to their files.