Running a business comes with a lot of laws and regulations governing how your business may operate. In our state, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) is in charge of establishing the rules and regulations for businesses. They are also responsible for conducting investigations of businesses.
Much like an IRS audit, there is a lot of stress that comes with learning IDFPR is investigating you. Unlike the IRS, the reason behind IDFPR investigations is a complaint. All it takes is one complaint for an investigation to be opened for individuals and businesses licensed by IDFPR.
Fortunately, you will be notified when IDFPR receives a complaint. Once you receive notice of a complaint, you should start to prepare immediately by using this list to help to make the investigation go as smoothly as possible.
This should be your first step. You will quickly see the benefits from having an experienced lawyer on your side who knows what to expect from IDFPR during the process.
Even more helpful, you can identify an administrative law attorney before you ever receive notice of an investigation. This will mean you do not have to do the research later when you are under pressure and deadlines. You never know when you will receive a complaint, so it is best to prepare before you have a problem.
As soon as an investigation begins, you should limit your discussions about it to your lawyer. Resist the urge to vent about the problem to anyone, including family and friends, do not discuss the matter with your customers or acquaintances. Do not even mention that you are being investigated unless your attorney approves. Your goal is to keep details from circulating and morphing.
Anything you say to your lawyer is confidential and protected; your lawyer may not disclose any information you share. But if you tell others about it, investigators can later use those people as witnesses for your case.
This tip should be obvious, but it can be easy to make little exaggerations or slight misrepresentations of the facts. None of this is a good idea. A lawyer can help you remain honest when talking to IDFPR’s investigators.
What may seem insignificant to you can be a huge red flag if IDFPR investigators and attorneys uncover conflicting information. It is very difficult to hide information during licensing investigations, and destroying evidence is not an option if you want to remain in business. The best policy is honesty, and you can limit your approach carefully under your lawyer’s counsel.
No matter how baseless a complaint may be, it is possible that there is a problem, and you are too close to the situation to see it. Simply ignoring that there is a problem – at least according to one of your customers – is going to do far more harm than good. The problem has already been reported, so you need to respond in a constructive manner.
Like a first impression, your first response to a complaint is incredibly important. Having a well-crafted response to a complaint starts the investigation on the right foot. In the best case, a thorough and well-written response may get the complaint completely dismissed.
You want help from your lawyer to ensure that your response is not only well-crafted but is a compelling element to the defense you are establishing at the beginning of the investigation.
The initial notice and complaint from IDFPR will include a timeframe by which you must respond and provide any information requested by the IDFPR. In addition to providing a well-crafted response, you must hit this deadline. Businesses that miss the required timeframe are subject to additional penalties and sanctions, in addition to making it more likely for the investigators to believe the complainant.
This is another reason you need a lawyer from the outset. You do not want to say anything that could be incriminating or detrimental to your efforts to counter the complaint. IDFPR can use all your verbal and written communications to resolve the complaint.
The best approach is to provide only the necessary information. Always have your lawyer present for discussions and have them review any written communications before you send them. This can help you to avoid unknowingly hurting your position or providing additional reasons for IDFPR to investigate your business.
IDFPR is not worried about your business; its goal is to protect the public. Keep this in mind when they appear to take a very friendly approach with you. IDFPR investigators are not there to make friends, but to determine if there is a potential risk to the public posed by your business.
To avoid most problems associated with complaints, if an investigator or anyone working for IDFPR contacts you, nicely tell them how to contact your lawyer. This strategy will save you a lot of money and frustration in the long run.
If you are being investigated, contact us to help you get started with your investigation.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact an attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
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