Peers and clients say:
"He is an affable and persuasive practitioner”
“Steven is very well known and has a great reputation”
Steven Haynes is a director at Greyhawk and has 25 years of investigations experience.
He provides evidence and intelligence to law firms and their clients in complex, high-value and cross-border disputes. He has extensive experience of identifying the assets of personal, corporate and sovereign debtors on behalf of judgement creditors and holders of arbitral awards.
Can you tell us about your background and how you became an asset recovery expert?
I worked as a newspaper reporter for nine years before becoming an investigator. I started on local newspapers covering local politics and crime. I then graduated to national newspapers and began researching and writing investigative stories. Journalism made me naturally sceptical of surface appearances and encouraged me to get to the bottom of things.
What do you enjoy most about your role as director at Greyhawk?
We are privileged to be a boutique firm that is entrusted with significant and sensitive matters. The greatest satisfaction comes from making a difference and earning the trust of clients. The variety of our work is a big draw and has enabled me to travel widely across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
In your experience, what are some of the major challenges faced when dealing with complex, high-value, and cross-border disputes in asset recovery?
There can be many! The challenges should be acknowledged from the outset and client expectations managed carefully.
First, there is no template or repeatable process. Each case is different. An investigator may know the first three steps to be taken, but the subsequent steps will depend on the results of the first three.
Second, in some cases assets below the value of the sum sought may be found. That is not a failure; knowledge of those assets and other intelligence can be used to apply pressure on a debtor.
Third, many successful cases require an element of luck, even if some investigators are slow to admit it. Seemingly insignificant actions by a debtor, their legal advisor or even members of their family can make the difference between an asset being revealed or remaining hidden. A good investigator is one that makes their own luck.
What role does technology play in your work as an asset recovery expert, and what specific tools do you find most useful in your investigations?
Over the last five years, tools and (lawful) “hacks” that enabled investigators to extract concealed information from social media played a critical role in many investigations. Some tools allowed anonymous fraudsters to be identified; others enabled assets to be geolocated. Over the same period, there have been wholesale changes to the design of social media platforms; as a result, tools quickly become obsolete and must be replaced by new ones.
What do clients look for when selecting an asset recovery expert?
Clients should be looking for three things: a track record of operating internationally, including in offshore jurisdictions; transparency with respect to the way that the work will be conducted; and honesty about the likely outcomes.
Investigators and lawyers should collaborate closely. An investigator should demonstrate a sound understanding of legal process, of evidential admissibility, and generally of how their output will be useful for lawyers.
What strategies do you use to stay up-to-date with the latest developments and trends in the field of asset recovery?
Since much investigators’ work takes place behind the scenes, a conscious effort needs to be made to keep up to date. Investigators can parse judgements for references to novel investigative techniques; they should assiduously follow the work of OSINT-focused NGOs (Bellingcat, for example) that publish their work, and they should keep networking with their peers.
In what ways does Greyhawk distinguish itself from competitors?
Greyhawk is a “low volume – high value” firm where the directors have a hands-on role throughout the lifetime of an engagement. We believe investigators learn something new on every assignment. As a result, our clients benefit from what our directors have learned managing hundreds of cases over 20 years.
We try to combine different investigative approaches according to the requirements of each case. These might include mobilising our network of contacts in other jurisdictions, conducting surveillance, interviewing witnesses, and searching very large datasets of corporate, legal and asset-related information.
What advice would you give to someone starting out as an asset recovery expert?
There are no formal entry requirements, but the following will be useful: an understanding of business and offshore finance, and a grasp of litigation and arbitration processes. Curiosity and tenacity are essential.