We are asked all the time to get into the bank account records of the other side in divorce and other matters. As we’ve written many times, most recently here and various entries here, without a court order you can’t make a bank hand over the other side’s banking details.
It’s not just that it isn’t ethical to trick banks into giving us the account information, it’s illegal.
We have written less about what happens when we get to see bank account information either through proper discovery, when the other side volunteers the documents, or when accounts are jointly held by both sides.
It turns out that seeing where cash comes from isn’t always the end of the search. If we see a credit item for $42,000 from Alpha Incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, then what?
Then comes the even harder part of figuring out who is behind Alpha. Are there any incorporation documents we could look at? Does Alpha do business in other jurisdictions where it has to provide the name of a party to sign a document? Are there any liens on Alpha registered in the BVI or elsewhere? Do former employees of the person who deals with Alpha know anything about it?
If it’s important enough, you can get foreign intelligence and law enforcement in on the act, as I mentioned in a television interview last week here in relation to the shootings in San Bernardino.
But usually, just as there is no magic database that spits out bank account information, even government agents with a court order still need to keep digging once the account information is turned over.
Even in the United States, getting behind who is in charge of a Delaware corporation can be nearly as tough. For the private actor with no subpoena power, get ready to do some interviews and to keep digging.