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Everything Begins with Facts

Attorney Biörn Riese has repeatedly provided expert assistance to Swedish publicly traded companies navigating delicate situations, leading independent and self-initiated public inquiries. This role demands an exceptional level of integrity and is predicated on presenting a thorough and factual analysis, even when it involves revealing disconcerting truths.

In his capacity as a public investigator, Mr. Riese often encounters significant pressure from the management and boards of the companies involved. Situations can escalate rapidly due to media revelations or governmental decisions, raising numerous questions both within the organization and among shareholders and other key stakeholders.

“Typically, it's the board, through the chairperson, that reaches out to me, recognizing the necessity to grasp the situation thoroughly and ascertain the events that have transpired. Boards bear the responsibility to act and implement corrective measures, particularly in scenarios involving serious misconduct by a CEO. They cannot afford to wait for lengthy legal or governmental processes to unfold over years. The imperative is to swiftly unravel the facts of the matter,” Mr. Riese explains.

Having had a distinguished tenure at Mannheimer Swartling, Mr. Riese now operates his own practice, frequently offering counsel to boards, alongside holding several board positions himself, including at Swedbank. His investigative work, notably in high-profile cases like Nordea's Panama Papers involvement and Telia's Uzbekistan dealings a decade ago, has garnered significant attention. These investigations culminated in public disclosures and critiques at press conferences.

For investigative findings to be truly beneficial, Mr. Riese insists on pre-defining sensitive parameters. Despite potential perceptions of partiality due to client remuneration, he stipulates contracts that affirm his investigative autonomy. A key aspect is preventing the client from selectively disclosing investigation outcomes.

“While not all reports are destined for public release, it's prudent to approach them with potential disclosure in mind. Particularly in public investigations, it's crucial that clients cannot claim attorney-client privilege to restrict the investigator's disclosures. Establishing clear guidelines at the outset ensures transparency in how the findings are to be presented, regardless of any subsequent changes in the company’s leadership or board,” he asserts.

Mr. Riese’s approach to such assignments is characterized by conducting thorough, unbiased investigations from a neutral standpoint. His objective is to provide a balanced and comprehensive account of events, enabling boards to fully comprehend the situation and address any underlying issues. His priorities align with those of the company: ensuring appropriate and ethical responses.

To uphold his independence, Mr. Riese emphasizes the importance of clearly defining the scope of the investigation in advance. The investigation must be comprehensive enough to cover all relevant aspects without being overwhelmed by extraneous data. He also asserts significant control over the access to materials and interview subjects while upholding the rights of individuals under scrutiny. Lacking the coercive powers of a prosecutor, he relies on voluntary cooperation, which he has found to be forthcoming in most instances.

Mr. Riese’s methodology involves piecing together the narrative through reviewing pertinent documents and engaging with multiple sources, leading to a clear understanding of the issues. This process facilitates informed decision-making and assessments, often within a time frame that serves the best interests of all parties involved.

His investigative work bears similarities to due diligence in corporate acquisitions. With extensive experience in numerous M&A transactions, Mr. Riese underscores the importance of understanding the operational nuances at various organizational levels. He notes that risks such as corruption often originate just below the top tier of management, influenced largely by the company's culture and governance. He cautions against isolated subcultures within organizations, emphasizing that mere policy implementation is insufficient without the backing of a strong, ethical corporate culture and governance framework.


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