James Pomeroy secures numerous recommendations from peers across several jurisdictions in this year’s research. He has 25 years of experience in asset tracing worldwide.
James is a director in Grant Thornton’s forensics practice and has 25 years of audit, insolvency, forensic accounting and investigations experience. He is a chartered professional accountant, a fellow of INSOL and a certified forensic examiner, and he leads the firm’s forensics practice in the BVI and Cayman Islands. James is a seasoned forensic accountant with experience of investigations relating to offshore finance, political corruption, business intelligence and integrity due diligence, commercial disputes, forensic technology, and international asset tracing and recovery.
What did you find most challenging about entering practice as a forensic investigator and accountant?
I transitioned into forensics having spent several years in a Big Four insolvency practice that concentrated on the liquidation of financial institutions and investment schemes. While it was not always guaranteed that books and records existed or were readily available, the insolvency platform typically provided for extensive access to whatever information was at hand or held by third parties. As I began to work on commercial fraud and grand corruption matters, I quickly discovered that there are often limitations to the information that can be obtained under a private appointment, and to the impact these gaps can present to a forensic analysis. Of course, in working alongside many very bright legal minds over the years, I have learned a great deal about how to navigate these kinds of challenges through different avenues of civil discovery.
How has asset recovery practice been impacted by covid-19 and what do you expect the long-term implications of the pandemic to be for recovery specialists and investigators?
Of course, the most obvious and impactful implication has been the inability to travel and meet with colleagues, clients and the various other stakeholders in the asset recovery process. The situation has shifted most of those interactions online in some shape or form. Nevertheless, working from a distance has taught us that while there is no substitute for personal interaction, much of the substantive work, such as document review and financial analysis, can be done remotely. Going forward, I think we will see more virtual interactions, as most of us who had historically kept tape over our webcams have learned to open them up for team meetings or virtual attendance in court.
What are the keys to successfully conducting international asset recovery?
There is no question that teamwork and collaboration are the keys to success. The most successful cases that I have had the good fortune to be part of have been the result of a strong group of professionals who were able to “check their ego at the door”. The best teams have depth and breadth of talent and expertise. They apply the right resources to the matter at hand. Knowing when it is your turn to step up, or when to allow another professional to step in, is an important aspect of actually working together.
What advice would you give to experts hoping to one day be in your position?
I would advise someone who is coming up in the profession to take pride in all aspects of their work, be curious and learn all they can from the people they work with. It is important to invest in oneself by spending the extra time learning about and from other professionals who are involved in our work, such as the legal team, investigators, forensic technology and subject matter experts. Our work is not nine-to-five, so one must be ready to respond at all times.
How can insolvency remedies aid asset recovery specialists in recovery efforts?
Under the right circumstances and form of collective proceeding, an insolvency estate can serve as the engine of the asset recovery process. First and foremost, whether domestically or through international recognition, an insolvency proceeding can expedite access to people, assets and information. A court-supervised insolvency process can give greater weight to a proceeding, generally motivating the debtor and those with knowledge of the entity’s affairs to cooperate with an asset investigation. Foreign courts may also view the involvement of a home court as evidence of the liquidator’s or receiver’s bona fides, thus taking requests for judicial assistance more seriously. Finally, creditors may take the view that the involvement of the court offers some degree of comfort that their rights and interests will be prioritised first and foremost.
What advantages and disadvantages does the use of private investigators in asset recovery cases pose?
While many private investigators bring unique experience and skill sets to the asset recovery team, we need to be mindful of where there are overlaps between our team and theirs, and ensure there is no duplication of effort and cost. Using reputable and resourceful private investigators can add depth to the asset recovery team by using their reach into corners of the world where many of us don’t or won’t dare to tread. In weighing the balance between intelligence and evidence, it is extremely important to ensure that the private investigators are instructed and tasked in a manner that is clearly within the bounds of legal, ethical and professional conduct.
How do you see your practice developing over the next five years?
I am now a full year into my role leading the firm’s forensics and investigations practice in the BVI and Cayman, and I am looking forward to moving past the restrictions imposed by covid-19; to continuing to complement our already well-established asset recovery team; and to expanding our reach throughout the Caribbean region.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
I have enjoyed a career which, in addition to family life, has kept me quite busy over the years. I would like to find more time to be able to become more involved in, and contribute to, my local community in some capacity.