April 30, 2020–Corporate investigations and advisory firm Forward Risk and Intelligence this month announced the opening of its New York City office, expanding beyond its headquarters in Washington, DC. Forward Risk’s New York office places the firm in closer proximity to several of its core clients, and is co-headed by Mike Aber and Mike Seyer. Recently I caught up with the both of them to discuss the growth of the firm and gather some insight into their work with private equity firms.–Publisher David M. Toll

Tell me what brought the two of you to Forward Risk. 

We have been working with each other for several years now, most recently leading the investigative intelligence team at a boutique diligence firm. Most of our work there was transactional diligence and pre-M&A work for private equity firms in the middle market.

Forward Risk already had a great team doing deep dives for corporate contests, and we thought that those two practice areas – proxy fights and M&A – fit naturally together. Both require a nuanced, analytical approach, grounded in an economic thesis, and a hunger on the part of the analyst to dig strategically and think creatively. We saw those qualities in our colleagues here at Forward Risk.

You specialize in investigative due diligence. What does this research consist of and how is it used by private equity firms?

To give the short version, investigative due diligence is how we help our private equity clients kick the tires on their investments. Private equity is first institutional money, or buying from one another. There’s no Wall Street coverage or investor calls for the ophthalmology practice down the road. Our clients are the ones that value having as much information at their disposal as possible. That’s where we come in, doing the background research on management’s record, on the company’s operations and human capital. We can provide a good look under the hood by examining the public record, and making independent reference calls to former employees, business partners, and customers. Whatever insight our clients need.

What is the most common mistake you see private equity firms make when evaluating target companies?

It’s actually a mistake in process. Making a bid for a company based only on a PowerPoint deck and notes from management meetings isn’t enough. It isn’t good enough to have the five-year financials and a strong handshake.

This isn’t so much a mistake as a growing pain. You see some of the more experienced private equity firms committing significant resources to their due diligence process. They institutionalize their review of every opportunity they look at, and they engage specialists for every step of the process. And there is a good reason for this. Mistakes are expensive. Mistakes are discrediting, and make it harder to fundraise and to present oneself as an attractive partner to management teams. In the beginning, everyone is confident making deals based on their own research and their gut feeling. And then they get burnt.

How would you describe the frequency with which you find something so serious it kills the deal or, at a minimum, leads to a renegotiation?

It depends on our clients’ individual risk appetites, but it does happen. We have uncovered outright fraud, and there have been reputational risks that have risen to the level of deal killers. But we don’t measure our success by the number of deals our research has killed, or take any pride in needing to tell the client that this one is pencils down. Protecting our clients is our minimum expectation of ourselves.

But our goal isn’t to flush two months of our client’s work down the drain. We’re trying to improve the terms of the deal, to make the partnerships between our client and management teams more constructive. We want to see our research having a positive impact on our client’s ability to execute a successful growth strategy for the company as soon as the purchase agreement is signed.

And how do you accomplish this?

Focused research in the public record, and independent reference calls. Without one or the other, you’re closing your eyes to the whole picture of what kind of company you’re buying. From our perspective, if we are buying a company, we want to know what management brings to the table, their personalities, where they are at in their personal and professional lives, what makes them tick.

But we also want to know as much as possible about everyone on the org chart. Who can be placed in a role of more responsibility? Whose potential can be unlocked if we move them from product to marketing? What’s the company culture? How do we leverage the working relationships that already exist, or create more collaboration among different parts of the company?

More macro, where can the company mature as an organization? How can it capture its next opportunity within the market? A robust diligence process can help answer these questions. This is a value-seeking process, not just a compliance exercise.

What’s next for you and Forward Risk?

Very simply, keep a disciplined focus on our core competencies. We work mostly with hedge funds, law firms, and private equity. These are sophisticated actors who require work that is concise, clearly articulated, and actionable. So the plan is to grow maturely, and continue to hire analysts who are, first and foremost, intellectually curious and who refuse to just check the box. As a firm, we want to be able to look through the eyes of our investor clients, or law partner clients, when breaking down a situation and problem solving. We’re going to stay focused on becoming the best at what we do.

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Forward Risk & Intelligence LLC (www.forwardrisk.com), an investigations and risk advisory firm based in Washington, DC, has opened an office in New York City, which will house the core team of the firm’s newly-established private equity practice.

Co-heading the office are Mike Aber and Mike Seyer, who joined Forward Risk in October after building and leading a similar practice at their previous firm. Aber and Seyer specialize in pre-investment diligence and vetting executive hires for lower- and middle-market private equity firms, providing both deep dive reports and discreet source inquiry work.

“We have built our private equity practice to provide a more sophisticated diligence option than what is offered in the market right now,” said Mike Aber. “No one on our team believes in simply checking the box.” Added Mike Seyer, “Our source inquiry work, combined with our experience digging strategically in the public record, make Forward Risk an ideal diligence partner to the private equity community. We are looking for more than red flags. We are looking for levers of opportunity and growth, aligning our work with our client’s primary objective – unlocking the value of their portfolio.”

Forward Risk’s private equity practice builds upon the firm’s history as a specialist in providing intelligence for corporate contests, working with shareholders and corporations to advance governance best practices at the management and board level. Forward Risk believes that these two practice areas are mutually reinforcing, both requiring a nuanced, analytical approach, with each engagement guided by the unique investment context and thesis.

Brendan Foo, a Co-Founder and Partner, commented, “We are excited to open the New York office and to continue to build upon our past growth with the launch of our private equity practice. At its core, our mission is simple – ensure that our clients are always equipped with an information advantage.”

About Forward Risk and Intelligence

Forward Risk is a corporate investigations, intelligence, and risk advisory firm based in Washington, DC. Our service areas include: Corporate Contests; Private Equity Due Diligence; Litigation Support; Political Vetting and Opposition Research; and Risk Advisory. Forward Risk offers cutting-edge research and analysis and bespoke services to fit our clients’ specific investment needs, providing them with actionable intelligence with which to make crucial decisions.

Contacts

Michael G. Seyer, Forward Risk
mseyer@forwardrisk.com

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Forward Risk & Intelligence LLC (www.forwardrisk.com), an investigations and risk advisory firm headquartered in Washington, DC, is pleased to announce that Andrea Muller has joined the firm’s Advisory Board.

Muller most recently served as an Executive Director, Global Head of Institutional Business at Principal Global Investors, where she led sales, relationship management, client service, and consultant relations. Prior to Principal Global Investors, Muller was Head of Asia Pacific for Fitch Ratings and a Managing Director at UBS Investment Banking.

Muller began her career in New York as an attorney with Shearman & Sterling, where she rose to become a European Partner at the firm, specializing in privatizations, capital markets transactions, M&A, and joint ventures. During her career, Muller has also served on multiple company boards and non-profit industry associations.

At Forward Risk, Muller will apply her 30 years of global leadership in the financial services and legal sectors to guide the firm as it enters the next phase of growth as a premier research and advisory organization. “Forward Risk is a young, growing firm at the forefront of investigative research and strategic advice. Their bespoke model has provided significant value to financial institutions and law firms and I look forward to working with the firm’s talented team and serving on the Advisory Board,” said Muller.

“As we begin our fourth year, it is an honor to welcome Andrea to the team,” said Brendan Foo, Forward Risk Co-Founder and Partner. “We are excited to have Andrea’s invaluable experience and leadership to guide our firm in its next stage of growth.”

As the first member of Forward Risk’s Advisory Board, the addition of Muller demonstrates the firm’s dedication to the highest level of service and quality. In commitment to the best practices of the professional services industry, Forward Risk plans to expand its Advisory Board with additional leaders from the investment, legal, and risk advisory sectors.

About Forward Risk and Intelligence

Forward Risk is a corporate investigations, intelligence, and risk advisory firm based in Washington, DC. Our service areas include: Corporate Contests; Private Equity Due Diligence; Litigation Support; Political Vetting and Opposition Research; and Risk Advisory. Forward Risk offers cutting-edge research and analysis and bespoke services to fit our clients’ specific investment needs, providing them with actionable intelligence with which to make crucial decisions.

Contacts

Brendan Foo, Forward Risk
Brendan@forwardrisk.com

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Forward Risk & Intelligence LLC (www.forwardrisk.com) has launched a Political Vetting and Opposition Research practice. The practice is led by Krystal L. Ramirez, an accomplished investigator whose experience includes working for the Democratic National Committee. Senior members of Krystal’s team include Julia Wilton, who formerly worked for the Liberal Party of Canada, and on a number of federal, provincial, and municipal Canadian political campaigns, and Dan Greenberg, Partner of Forward Risk.

“With every election cycle, we see more and more the importance of research that goes beyond just compiling ‘votes and quotes,’” said Krystal Ramirez. “Having worked on hard-fought campaigns at the federal and local levels, I’ve seen firsthand how vital it is to gather actionable intelligence through careful and creative investigative techniques. Having an advantage in research quality and sophistication can make all the difference.”

Forward Risk offers comprehensive vetting, defensive research, and opposition research for political campaigns, political action committees, advocacy groups, law firms, and other clients. This includes thorough examination of news and social media in both open sources and proprietary databases; civil and criminal litigation records; business and regulatory filings; property records; professional affiliations and licenses; support for or opposition to causes and organizations; campaign finance filings; statements and comments on matters of public interest; and voting records.

“This initiative plays to our many strengths,” said Luke DiMaggio, a partner and co-founder of Forward Risk. “Our expertise in corporate investigations and business intelligence sets us apart – our team has a sophisticated understanding of public records and other open sources as well as a track record of uncovering vulnerabilities with significant political implications for our clients.”

About Forward Risk and Intelligence

Forward Risk (www.forwardrisk.com) is a corporate investigations, intelligence, and risk advisory firm based in Washington, DC. Our service areas include: Investigative Due Diligence; Corporate Contests; Litigation Support; Risk Advisory; and Political Vetting and Opposition Research. Forward Risk offers cutting-edge research and analysis and bespoke services to fit our clients’ specific risk and regulatory needs, providing them with actionable intelligence with which to make crucial decisions.

Contacts

Krystal L. Ramirez, Forward Risk
krystal@forwardrisk.com

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Forward Risk & Intelligence LLC announced today that it has appointed Daniel E. Greenberg to Vice President. Forward Risk is a Washington, DC-based research and investigations firm founded by Brendan M. Foo, Andrew T. Wooster, and Luke A. DiMaggio. In his new position, Mr. Greenberg will help to oversee the firm’s research operations.

“Forward Risk is expanding its investigative team to meet the firm’s growing demand,” said Mr. DiMaggio. “Having previously worked alongside Dan, I know that his experience conducting enhanced due diligence investigations and overseeing large projects will help Forward Risk in that growth.”

Mr. Greenberg joins Forward Risk after holding leadership roles in the investigations and due diligence industry. He was previously Director of Product & Solutions at Exiger Diligence, a public records research and due diligence firm. In this capacity, he led efforts to improve research and service quality, enhanced product offerings, and grew the effectiveness and scalability of the organization’s resources and methodology. Mr. Greenberg was also the manager of the Open Source Research Center at TD International LLC, where he acted as a point of contact for client accounts, oversaw the production of due diligence reports, and supported complex investigations. He was also an Associate Director at Kroll, where he helped lead the company’s internship program and DC Research Center.

Mr. Greenberg has a B.A. in International Affairs and Spanish Language and Literature from George Washington University, and an M.A. in Middle Eastern History from Tel Aviv University.

About Forward Risk:

Forward Risk is an investigations and public records due diligence firm based in Washington, DC. We conduct investigative due diligence, business intelligence research, and litigation support on behalf of financial institutions, multinational corporations, and law firms. Forward Risk provides cutting edge research and bespoke services to fit our clients’ specific risk and regulatory needs, thereby providing them with actionable intelligence to make crucial business decisions.

Contacts

Forward Risk & Intelligence LLC
Brendan M. Foo, Partner
info@forwardrisk.com
https://www.forwardrisk.com