Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Investigative reporting: Glossary of key terms

May 1, 2012

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Given the range of possible investigative projects, there isn’t really any particular glossary of terms to cover the area.  However, here are some terms that could come in handy at times.

  • 10K: A company’s annual report filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission.
  • 8K:  Term to describe an SEC filing in which a public company reveals material information that needs to be put out quickly.
  • Related party transactions: Refers to private dealings between a company and its own officials, dealings that can be the source of conflict-of-interest problems.
  • Non-prosecution agreement: An arrangement where the government agrees not to indict a corporation if the company pays monetary penalties, cooperates with investigators and/or makes certain changes in its practices and structure.
  • Witness, subject, target:  In federal criminal investigations, there are often three levels of individuals that federal officials are looking at.  A witness is someone who has information about a suspected crime but isn’t believed to be guilty of anything. A subject is someone who is more involved in the possible wrongdoing but isn’t, at least at the moment, likely to be indicted. A target is someone who is being looked at for possible indictment.
  • Unindicted co-conspirator:  A figure in an alleged fraud who hasn’t been indicted, but in the eyes of the government could be based on the available evidence.  In big fraud cases, it’s fairly common that the government doesn’t indict everybody that it believes is guilty.  In the Enron scandal, for example, the government filed criminally charged more than two dozen individuals but said there were dozens of additional unindicted co-conspirators.  Often, even Uncle Sam doesn’t have the resources to indict everybody.

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