Illegal Use Of Private Investigator Information

  • June 5, 2023
  • 3 min read

Hiring a private investigator can be a strategic move for businesses looking to gather intel on competitors, but what happens when the tactics employed cross legal boundaries? A recent case involving Impossible Foods, the renowned plant-based meat company, sheds light on the potential risks and liabilities associated with private investigations.

The Case: Impossible Foods vs. Motif FoodWorks

Impossible Foods found itself in hot water when it hired a private investigator to delve into the activities of Motif FoodWorks, a competitor, during a patent dispute. While the use of private investigators in legal battles is not uncommon, the manner in which the investigation was conducted raised serious legal concerns.

Motif FoodWorks alleged that investigators, hired by Impossible Foods, resorted to pre-texting—a practice where fake identities are used to obtain information. In this case, the investigators posed as potential partners, pretending to be representatives of a fast-food supplier and a meal kit service interested in Motif’s products.

The Allegations of Pre-texting

Pre-texting involves using deceptive methods to elicit information, and in this instance, the investigators went to great lengths. They approached Motif FoodWorks, claiming to work for a non-existent fast food supplier and a fictional meal kit service named “Food for Thought.” The fake buyers even went as far as creating a website to establish the legitimacy of their cover.

Legal Implications and Client Responsibility

While private investigators may employ certain tactics within the bounds of the law, the real challenge arises in how the gathered information is utilized. In this case, Motif FoodWorks took legal action, contending that the pre-texting tactics were improper and breached federal laws.

What’s noteworthy is that liability might extend beyond the investigator to the client—Impossible Foods in this case. The legal use of information obtained through investigation becomes crucial, and clients must be well-informed about the ethical and legal considerations surrounding the data they receive.

Key Takeaways for Businesses Considering Private Investigations

  1. Legal Consultation: Before embarking on a private investigation, businesses should seek legal advice to ensure that the methods employed align with federal and state laws.
  2. Understanding Legal Boundaries: Knowing the boundaries of what is legally permissible in obtaining information is crucial for both the investigator and the client.
  3. Proper Use of Information: Even if information is legally obtained, its use must comply with ethical and legal standards. Improper use can lead to legal consequences for the client.
  4. Risk Assessment: Businesses must conduct a thorough risk assessment to gauge the potential legal repercussions of their investigative actions.

Proceeding with Caution in the World of Private Investigations

The Impossible Foods vs. Motif FoodWorks case serves as a stark reminder that the world of private investigations is rife with legal complexities. Businesses considering such endeavors must navigate carefully, seeking legal guidance to ensure compliance and mitigate potential liabilities. In the realm of corporate strategy, it’s not just about what you uncover—it’s about how you use that information that can make all the difference.

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