Businesses of all types face inherent risks of financial loss due to fraud. Often, those risks come from within an organization and involve its own employees. As statistics show, an overwhelming percentage of fraudulent activity can be traced to a company’s employees, including executives and others who have access to finances and an ability to alter transactions. This being the case, it becomes critical for companies to take a firm stand when their business is subjected to fraud.
Hendershot Cowart P.C. is an industry leader in business law with a verifiable record of success protecting the rights and interests of businesses in litigation involving fraud. Through zealous representation and an aggressive pursuit of the facts, our Houston business lawyers work diligently to expose deception, lies, and trickery in all its forms, and guide our clients through the pathways required for a recovery of their damages.
Examples of Fraud
Fraud, by definition, is the intentional deception of another for personal gain, or to harm an individual or group. Within businesses, fraud can take many forms, including corruption, false financial documents, bribery, or internal theft. Fraud may also include misrepresentation, misappropriation of trade secrets, and theft of intellectual property.
Common examples of business fraud include:
- Embezzlement – As one of the most common forms of business fraud, embezzlement involves the theft of assets (money or property) by a person within a business for their own personal gain. Typically, embezzlement is committed by employees in positions of trust, and who have responsibility over certain assets or accounting. When done by a Partner, Officer or Director this is also a breach of their fiduciary duty.
- Payoffs and Kickbacks – Employees may accept bribes, kickbacks, or payoffs in exchange for influencing a company to do business with a particular party or supplier. Corporate contracts are a particularly lucrative target for bribery schemes, especially when large sums of money are on the line. Companies should avoid giving any special direct or indirect favors or making payments including finder's fees, gifts, and special payments - especially to family members, friends, government or state officials.
- Theft of Trade Secrets – A trade secret is any confidential plan, formula, pattern, program device, technique, code, or collection of information that, once released, could potentially benefit a business. Employees, partners, officers and shareholders alike often have access to company trade secrets. When these individuals or others violate your business’ trade secrets, the trade secret is then considered misappropriated or stolen.
Elements of Proving Fraud
In order to prevail in a claim, victimized businesses must prove several elements in order to establish fraud. These include:
- A material representation was made by the defendant;
- The material representation was false;
- The defendant knew the representation was false, or recklessly made the representation without knowledge of its truth;
- The representation was made with the intent that it would be acted upon;
- The plaintiff acted upon the misrepresentation; and
- The plaintiff suffered damages as a result.
Establishing all elements of fraud demands meticulous investigation and complete presentation of facts and evidence. It also requires particular focus as to the element of intent, which may be demonstrated by the defendant’s subsequent acts after a false material fact was represented. A promise of future performance can highlight actionable fraud when there is intent to deceive, and no intent to perform the act, and evidence is needed to solidify a defendant’s intent.
When successful, plaintiffs in business fraud cases may secure a recovery of their actual damages, which are those that resulted directly from the defendant’s fraudulent conduct. In some cases, exemplary damages (punitive) can also be sought.
Take a Stand Against Fraud with a Proven Business Law Firm
With more than 150 years of collective experience, our business litigation attorneys at Hendershot Cowart P.C. have the requisite tools and resources to protect the rights of business fraud victims throughout Houston and the state of Texas. We also offer counsel and representation to businesses that wish to protect their intellectual property and trade secrets through comprehensive policies and agreements.
If you would like to discuss a potential case involving fraud committed by an employee or another individual or business, or to learn more about our services, contact us.