Swiss FTS Uses Relativity to Unravel a Money Laundering Scheme
When a large financial institution investigated its potential exposure to money laundering and related crimes by certain customers, its external counsel approached Swiss FTS to help them make sense of the data. The firm needed to reveal the story behind 300 account managers, 500 customer accounts, and 300,000 transactions—making this anything but a straightforward task. However, Swiss FTS proved that with the right tools, custom development on the Relativity platform, and some strategic problem solving, investigations don’t have to be as challenging as they appear.
Swiss FTS is a Relativity partner located in Zurich, Switzerland. Specializing in IT forensics, e-discovery, and information governance, their team uses Relativity to tackle projects of all sizes and in all industries, with a focus on corporate IT.
Rogier Teo, partner of e-discovery at Swiss FTS, and Mattias Aggeler, partner of IT forensics, led the charge on this project. Rogier has been in the IT sector since 1998 and began focusing on e-discovery and computer forensics in 2008. Mattias has worked in e-discovery and computer forensics since 2008, as well. Both specialize in optimizing e-discovery workflows and have managed various Swiss and international projects.
A Paradigm Shift: Documents vs. Behavior and Relations
With her client, a large financial institution, launching an investigation into their exposure to money laundering and related crimes possibly committed by certain customers, Claudia Fritsche—heading the investigative arm of Swiss firm BRP—asked Swiss FTS to help sort through the data and understand the financial institution’s exposure. Because this was an investigation, the goal was more nuanced than “find and produce the hot docs.” Instead, the team needed to identify if any funds were laundered and, if so, just how much the financial institution’s employees knew about the potentially illegal transactions.
With more than 300 account managers across 500 different customer accounts—and approximately 300,000 transactions over the course of 10 years—tying together who knew what and when required some creative problem solving.
“During the first weeks, we were overwhelmed with the sheer data volume and data sources,” remembers Claudia. “We knew that for this project, we needed a fully fledged IT forensics partner to develop a sound and efficient approach to connect the dots and tell the ‘story’ in only a few months.”
“Rather than exclusively looking at their documents, the investigative team needed to be able to adjust their focus and build narratives around customers’ various accounts and the related account managers over a period of 10 years,” said Rogier. “We needed to help them with this paradigm shift by providing a common view of each account.”
Early Bird Gets the Data
Because Swiss FTS was brought into this investigation early on, they were fortunately able to help guide the project from the start.
“We worked with BRP to develop an investigation strategy and conduct proper data mapping,” said Rogier. “We were able to see the different systems the client works with—such as HR tools and relationship management systems—then consolidate all the information related to each of the 500 customer accounts.”
In total, Swiss FTS found that BRP needed to analyze 23 million documents—structured data from customer relationship management databases, emails, and attachments—as well as additional unstructured data.
With a clear understanding of the different data sources and types of information in play, Swiss FTS brainstormed how to give the review lawyers access to all of this information in one location and frame it in an intuitive and people-centric (rather than document-centric) way.
“In investigations like this, it’s not only what you read in a specific document, but how that document is linked to other information and people,” said Mattias. “It’s similar to looking at an email family where an attachment seemed neutral. It’s not until you see the email it’s attached to that it becomes relevant.”
If they could link the related information—account managers, documents, transactions, and accounts—reviewers could see at a glance exactly what they needed and start building the clients’ stories.
Making Connections with Relativity
Having used Relativity for years, Swiss FTS knew just the tool to help—Relativity dynamic objects (RDOs). Found in every Relativity workspace, RDOs securely store different types of information. Case teams can create and customize RDOs to meet their needs, ultimately allowing them to better search, analyze, and act on the data.
“What makes Relativity easy to use is the functionality you get in the front end to move and integrate data you might need for a specific investigation or project,” said Mattias.
For example, users can create an RDO for custodians—including fields for their name, start date, end date, role, and any other data they want to capture—as well as RDOs for particular workspaces and documents. They can then connect the different objects to organize related information.
In this particular project, Swiss FTS modeled their objects after the information in their data map, including accounts, account managers, and transactions, as well as client relationships (e.g., the person named account holder, beneficial owner, or power of attorney on the customer account). Next, they used Relativity to transfer the data from the different data sources directly into the appropriate objects.
After loading the 23 million documents into Relativity, the team linked the related objects together—such as transactions to account managers—and soon they had a finished product, where users could see the data they needed with just one or two clicks.
Swiss FTS used Relativity dynamic objects to help reviewers focus on pertinent elements of the investigation in one view.
“The model we created with RDOs allows reviewers to focus on the elements pertinent to their review,” said Rogier. “For example, if they’re trying to investigate a specific account manager, they have everything they need for that account manager bucketed in one view.”
Swiss FTS also developed a custom application on top of the data model that allows the creation of reports containing the relevant fields of the RDOs. With this Relativity application, they can build reports by simply dragging the fields needed from each respective object into the report builder, allowing the investigators to easily create a summary of all the relevant structured data for the case files, productions, and presentation.
Swiss FTS’s custom Report Builder, created in Relativity.
Though the investigation is still ongoing, Rogier and Mattias are already seeing big results and hearing promising feedback from their clients.
“Users love how efficient it is to use the Relativity platform. They don’t have to browse through three or four different spreadsheets—they have everything they need in one workspace,” said Rogier. “And because it’s a scalable solution, the capabilities are limitless. It doesn’t matter how many records we have.”
Additionally, they’re finding that RDOs are coming into play in additional projects.
“If we had a time machine, we’d go back and do more projects this way.”
“Relativity allowed us to shift the paradigm for how we will approach all of our investigations. In a matter of weeks, we were able to build a common view to focus by account manager or issue rather than just the documents,” said Rogier. “If we had a time machine, we’d go back and do more projects this way.”
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