THE EARLY YEARS
Tom Willingham founded Gryphon in 1989, having worked in investigations his entire career. Tom’s specialty was conducting high-liability life insurance and high-indemnity disability fraud investigations. Gryphon, then known as Data Source International, quickly became a leader in conducting insurance fraud investigations, particularly in complex international claims, which required an extra level of expertise. Tom solved cases around the world and successfully saved insurance companies hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent claims.
GROWTH AND DIVERSIFICATION
Seeking to diversify the firm’s offerings and continue to grow the business, Tom hired Jay Dawdy in 2000. Jay had expertise in conducting corporate investigations, due diligence inquiries, and litigation support investigations. Jay also had previous finance and accounting experience in the investment banking world. Since that time, Tom, Jay and Gryphon’s senior managers have built an outstanding team, and have successfully expanded the business to include a more robust set of investigative services.
AN OUTSTANDING TEAM
Our diverse team of managers and investigators have a similar mindset to the partners – conducting high quality investigations and providing the best client service in the industry. By design, Gryphon’s investigative personnel have varied backgrounds, which has fostered a creative approach to planning and strategy on cases contributing to the delivery of a superior product to our clients. Our cumulative experience has been key in the firm’s ability to adapt to changing market needs and paramount in Gryphon’s steady success for more than 25 years and counting.
Gryphon continues to evolve, both in terms of the services offered and the personnel we bring into the firm. We are constantly searching for top quality individuals who will continue to help us grow and diversify the business, which in turn creates greater value for our clients and opportunities for our employees. Gryphon looks different than it did 10 years ago and we expect it will look different 10 years from now as we continue to adapt to changing market conditions, continue to serve our client’s needs and grow the business into the future.
WHERE WE WORK
While conducting a number of character interviews on the managers of a London-based investment fund, Gryphon came across several individuals who spoke unfavorably about the fund’s recently on-boarded CFO. Upon further investigation, Gryphon discovered that the officer had previously been involved in a bitter dispute with two former employers and oversaw the collapse of another fund in London a few years prior. Our client, an established asset management firm, ultimately decided to reduce its investment in the fund as a result.
People’s Republic of China (PRC)
Gryphon was engaged by a large sovereign wealth fund interested in investing with a seemingly profitable financial services firm in China. Upon completing exhaustive due diligence, Gryphon uncovered that the firm’s local sponsors had been utilizing an irregular shareholding scheme to prop up the company’s public offerings. In addition, the company was sanctioned and fined by the Chinese Securities Commission for violating stock purchase rules and utilizing illicit political connections for financial gain. Armed with Gryphon’s intelligence, our clients were able to leverage the findings at deal time.
Assisting a private equity fund in its bid to buy an Italian management firm, Gryphon was tasked with a discreet review of the company amidst growing rumors that its executive leadership was under investigation for alleged bid rigging and connections to organized crime. After speaking with a number of individuals close to the investigation and piecing together a variety of trusted public sources, Gryphon was able to establish that an official investigation into the firm had exonerated its leadership of all charges, allowing our client to close their transaction.
As part of a know-your-customer (KYC) program, an investment bank engaged Gryphon to investigate the assets and political connections of a well-known family in Brazil. Gryphon’s investigation identified several touchpoints between the family and a then-on-going money laundering scandal involving one of Brazil’s top corporations. In particular, our research identified several pending criminal charges against family members within the Brazilian court system, as well as several overlapping interests between the family and the soon to be censured corporation. Gryphon’s results were able to prevent a potentially embarrassing relationship for its client.
Assisting an international power generation firm with a local merger in India, Gryphon was engaged to thoroughly examine the company under acquisition. Following an in-depth review of the company’s public presence in India, Gryphon went a step further and systematically reviewed social media outlets and company rating databases to better understand how the local company was treating its customer base. Following an extensive review, Gryphon determined that many customers were unhappy with the local provider and blamed it for a number of careless power outages. Using Gryphon’s findings, our client was able to mediate several customer oriented demands into its final merger agreement.
A multi-billion dollar fund of funds heard rumors that one of its investments may have been subject to a financial censure in Canada. Gryphon set to work examining records with local Canadian regulators, but this wasn’t enough to link the matter to the fund. Gryphon then located a retired Canadian officer responsible for issuing the censure and conducted an interview. As it turned out, the matter involved a similarly named company. Thanks to Gryphon’s review, the fund of funds was able to cast aside any doubts in its portfolio.
One of Gryphon’s long standing corporate clients planned to on-board a new executive and asked Gryphon to run a comprehensive background check just days prior to the new appointment. Gryphon quickly got to work and uncovered several troubling records under a previously unknown alias. Upon further investigation, Gryphon determined that the individual spent nearly a decade as a career felon. After several inquiries with law enforcement personnel, Gryphon was able to obtain certified documentation of the individual’s criminal history, including his four year residence in a state prison. Gryphon’s findings immediately dissuaded the client from moving forward with the appointment.
With a reputation for establishing the facts, Gryphon was asked to help a well-known insurance company sort out the suspicious death of an Ecuadorian policy holder. The insured took out a multi-million dollar life insurance policy while residing in New York. A year later, his wife claimed the insured passed away while visiting family back in Ecuador. Working together with local authorities, Gryphon established that the insured’s foreign death certificate was fraudulent and that he was actually alive and well in Ecuador. The insurance company denied the claim.
Working on behalf of a law firm representing investors who were suing an Israeli medical device manufacturer, Gryphon worked to identify confidential witnesses in the research and development department of the company. Upon conducting a series of Hebrew-language interviews with former employees of the Israeli firm, Gryphon was able to provide its client with information from several individuals who attested to a lack of efficacy in number of the manufacturer’s “successful” clinical trials. As a result of Gryphon’s efforts, the client was able to secure a large settlement from the manufacturer.
A prominent financial institution investing in emerging markets tasked Gryphon with the sensitive review of an obscure mining operation in Nigeria. Working together with local partners, Gryphon made a number of discreet site visits to the target company’s offices, interviewed personnel, and conducted inquiries at local government registries to establish the legitimacy of the business. Gryphon’s findings ultimately convinced the client that the company was sound, resulting in a profitable investment.
“If it weren’t for Willingham, I’m not sure we would have had the level of success we had on this $160,000,000 case. We use him for all of our cases where we need to dig deeper because of his keen sense of knowing when something’s not right with a case.”– Insurance Industry Executive commenting on Gryphon’s successful investigation of a major foreign death claim