At some point with nearly every asset search our firm conducts, we end up telling clients that finding assets is often more than a one-step process.

The one step some people think we need to take is to consult some databases, and voila! A pot of gold they can easily seize.

While there have been times when we discover real estate ownership in the name of the asset concealer, our clients in these cases usually agree that if their spouse is so careless about the houses, there must be much more money being carefully hidden. At least one study we have written about before indicates that most divorcing men hide assets.

The truth is that a successful asset search sometimes doesn’t seem successful to clients who expect an easy grab. We recently did a search and came up with a two-month old company formed by the person we were looking at. It owned no real estate that we could see and had no liens against it.

Our client was disappointed, but I had to tell her that this was potentially good news.

If someone is hiding assets, they would be silly to stick cash in the bank in their own name. Of course, you need to subpoena all the accounts you know about, but the big money will often be hidden in the name of a company you don’t know about. Finding the name of that company is half the battle.

Then, you need to find out where that company may have a bank account. With whom has it done business? Does the person you are searching have a favorite bank or banks? Any business liens at a bank we haven’t seen before in his affairs? Is there a computer we can look at (legally) that could tip us off?

We cannot stress often enough that there is no legal way for us to consult a database and get a list of someone’s bank or securities accounts. You need to go bank by bank with a court order once you are in discovery or have a judgment. If an investigator tells you he can get you this information with “connections,” he is telling you he will break the law. See our post about that called Can You Get Me Bank Accounts and Some Cocaine, Please?

Sometimes, we find the names of new companies domiciled in other countries. That’s good news, potentially, but getting discovery of those company accounts can be expensive, depending on the jurisdiction. If you are owed a lot of money that can be worth it. But going all-out to get $50,000 in the British Virgin Islands probably won’t be.

Asset searches can work out well if, while being as aggressive as you can be, you exercise patience when needed and follow the rules.


Want to know more? Check out our website at and this podcast we did, “How a Professional Investigator Finds Hidden Assets.”

View Original Source
Photo of Philip Segal Philip Segal

Charles Griffin is headed by Philip Segal, a New York attorney with extensive experience in corporate investigations in the U.S. for AmLaw 100 law firms and Fortune 100 companies. Segal worked previously as a case manager for the James Mintz Group in New York and as North American Partner and General Counsel for GPW, a British business intelligence firm. Prior to becoming an attorney, Segal was the Finance Editor of the Asian Wall Street Journal, and worked as a journalist in five countries over 19 years with a specialization in finance. In 2012, he was named by Lawline as one of the top 40 lawyers furthering legal education.  Segal has also been a guest speaker at Columbia University on investigating complex international financing structures, and taught a seminar on Asian economics as a Freeman Scholar at the University of Indiana.  He is the author of the book, The Art of Fact Investigation: Creative Thinking in the Age of Information Overload (Ignaz Press, 2016). He lectures widely on fact investigation and ethics to bar associations across the United States.