Tricks of the Trade
By Private Investigator Michael T. O'Rourke
Question: I am a paralegal in a law office that handles primarily plaintiff's work. I need to assemble information regarding a corporation we are about to file suit against. It will be necessary to include corporate officers in the complaint. How do I determine who they are?
Answer: If the company is publicly traded, check out www.sec.gov; you will find a list of corporate officers there. If it is publicly traded, you can always call and ask for a copy of the shareholders report. Sometimes there is a fee; most often it is free. If the company is privately held your task becomes more involved.
Initially, you would contact the State of Delaware, Secretary of State, Division of Corporations, in Dover (302) 739-3073, and obtain the DE corporate ID number. While you have the clerk on the phone, ask for that company officers listed on the previous year's franchise tax statement. If a name is available, place that to the side for future inquiry.
It is interesting to note that a name is not required when sending in the franchise tax statement. (Most people leave it blank.) Ask to be transferred to the "automated system", and you can now acquire the date of incorporation, Registered Agent information, and stock issuance information.
The Division of Corporations can also give you information on UCC filings. Note the dates of the filings. Once the debt is paid off the secured item is considered an asset of value. And, occasionally, the filing will reveal a name of a corporate officer…ask before paying for it. The Division's website is: www.state.de.us/corp/. Make a list of the names you find.
Also check with the Recorder of Deeds office in the county in which the company is located. If the company owns the property, pull copies of deeds and mortgages. You will find signatures of the principals there. You can also find federal tax liens, articles of incorporation, and other miscellaneous filings at the Recorder of Deeds office.
Most of the 2200 counties in the U.S. are online. Use Google to locate the address. New Castle County is www.ncc-deeds.com. In addition to locating corporate officers, you have added to the list of assets. Make a list of the names you find.
The local courthouse is also a tremendous resource. Copies of previous litigation, both civil and criminal, are public information. Pull the files, and note any names included in the complaint. Check all the courts. We are fortunate, here in DE, to have a Court of Chancery.
The Prothonotary also maintains copies of all fictitious name registrations. In DE, you must file the fictitious name registration in each County. The clerks in the Courts are very helpful, use your phone if you need assistance. Make a list of the names you find.
The Department of Motor Vehicles can provide a list of "vehicles by name" to you. From the list, further obtain certified title histories and observe the signatures on the title. note lien information and add to your list of assets. In addition, make a list of names you find.
The internet is a great resource as well. Search for the company name on Google. Check out business sites like www.dnb.com, www.hoovers.com, www.yellowpages.com, etc… Also a great resource is the News Journal. The web-site is www.delawareonline.com.
Remember, once your list is assembled the information will need to be verified as current. Obtain home addresses and other contact information. Serve the defendants at their place of employment and their residence. Use a private detective to assemble DOB's, SSN's, individual assets, and other personal information.
For your tougher cases, it will be necessary to employ a private detective to conduct surveillance, and interviews. Most industries are tight-nit, and the competition is information rich about the company you are inquiring about.
Surveillance, and activity checks, can identify company assets and business activities. Use DMV records to identify vehicle ownership on company property. Compare photographs obtained at the job-site, or company offices, with DMV images. Identify the players. Who is parked in the closest parking space? Who is working late, or arrives early? Interview the landlord and neighboring businesses.
If feasible, pull the trash from the dumpster, or curb. I carry a 10' x 10' tarp, and a box of rubber surgical gloves, in my trunk just for this purpose. It is absolutely amazing what people discard…..
Det. Michael T. O'Rourke is a Member of the National Association of Investigative Specialists, The National Association of Professional Process Servers, and Sustaining member of the Delaware Paralegal Association. A Court Certified Special Process Server, and a Licensed Private Investigator in DE and PA. Michael specializes in Insurance Defense and Criminal Defense. He invites your questions to:
Loss Solutions, Inc.
824 N. Market Street,
Suite 425, P.O. Box 368,
Wilmington DE 19899-0368.
Or you may e-mail him at DeIrish5@aol.com.