Five Essential Free Sources of Information that Investigators Use in Asset Searches After Google Gets Them to a Dead End.
1. Company Information. People don’t hide assets just in their own names. They form companies to hold the assets. Phil will show you the basics of hunting for companies at the various Secretary of State websites. Each state in the U.S. controls company formation. Some have a lot of information, some less, but no investigator leaves out this critical step.
2. Real estate ownership. The U.S. has more than 3,000 counties, and real estate ownership is recorded at the county level. The websites differ and some don’t give you much. But others can give you deeds, mortgages, and more. Phil will show you how to navigate some of the most common ones.
3. Court records. Not all records are online, but many are (especially in Florida). They too are almost always by county. Phil will show you how to look to see if your county lists these records and lets you download documents.
4. Liens. It’s no good getting after an asset if it’s been pledged to someone else. In addition to mortgages (see step 2), people borrow money and pledge things (not real estate) as collateral. You can look this up in many states right online.
5. Securities records. What did the company pay the executive last year? Was he on record in a private placement? The Securities and Exchange Commission requires more disclosure than any other market in the world, even for non-U.S. companies that trade here. It’s an indispensable resource for any U.S. asset search.
1 CLE credit has been approved through the Florida Bar (check with your Bar to see if they accept Florida CLEs, many states do)
Philip Segal worked for 19 years as a journalist in India, Pakistan, running NBC’s Mexico City bureau. He covered Parliament in Canada and then became a finance specialist in Asia (lastly as Finance Editor at the Asian Wall Street Journal). He won a fellowship to Yale Law School, graduated with a JD from Cardozo, and has worked as an investigator since 2006. He opened Charles Griffin Intelligence in 2009.
Segal was an adjunct law professor in fact investigation at Cardozo Law School for three years and has spoken to bar associations all over the country on the topics of asset searching, ethics, and general investigation.
He is the author of The Art of Fact Investigation: Creative Thinking in the Age of Information Overload and has written more than a dozen articles for law journals and other legal publications on how to investigate ethically.
His firm maintains two blogs, The Divorce Asset Hunter and The Ethical Investigator. He lives with his family in New York City.
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