Guidepost Solutions LLC is a global security, investigations and immigration consulting firm. As CEO of the firm, Andrew O’Connell oversees an operation that specializes in personal, physical and cyber security as well as threat and risk mitigation, complex and sensitive investigations, immigration matters, due diligence and compliance consulting. The New York City-based firm works with companies, government agencies, individuals and their advisors to solve problems, advance business opportunities, mitigate risks and resolve disputes. In a recent interview, O’Connell explained how Guidepost provides security for a wealthy clientele ranging from Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees to Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Prince: What services does your company provide for the wealthy?
O’Connell: Our private client protection program offers comprehensive investigation, security, risk mitigation and crisis management solutions tailored to the needs of high-net-worth and high-profile individuals and family offices. 

We work on a lot of different concerns. For example, a serious trend we’re seeing are cases involving extortionate threats and demands against high-profile and high-net-worth executives, celebrities, athletes, entertainers and politicians. Basically, these people are money targets. Each of these cases is very sensitive and complex in nature, requiring the utmost in precision and discretion. 

Prince: Can you go into a little more detail?
O’Connell: Often, we’re hired by the attorneys or other advisors of those being extorted with matters ranging from inappropriate relationships to allegations of abuse to undesirable photos held as ransom. When we meet with these clients, they’re already in crisis mode and they just want their problem to go away.

We troubleshoot the issue and provide the best options based on the evidence we gather and the information revealed during our investigations. Because we’re former federal and state prosecutors and law enforcement officials, we have vast domestic and international resources. We know if and when to get law enforcement involved. 

It’s lawful and ethical to purchase documents, photographs and recordings, and oftentimes clients don’t want to involve law enforcement. They just want the problem to go away. We’re very good at making the problems go away with the least amount of repercussions for the client.

Transactions this sensitive in nature must be conducted lawfully and ethically. This is where our expertise and experience comes into play. When necessary, we also conduct in-depth investigations and provide expert witness testimony and litigation support. In addition, as appropriate, through arbitration we will help resolve disputes. 

Prince: In what other ways do you work with the wealthy?
O’Connell: Our services are not limited to extortion cases. We’re often called in to help affluent and successful people protect their assets and reputations by conducting due diligence to evaluate the character, reputation and fitness of potential business partners, employees, business ventures and others.

There’s a trend among the very wealthy, such as family offices, to directly invest in business. Our expertise is to critically look at the people involved and see if there are any undisclosed land mines waiting to blow up. We’re also there when the wealthy are considering investment options. For example, before someone gives a hedge fund many, many millions of dollars to invest, it’s usually wise to have a good assessment of the character of the managing partners at the fund.

Prince: How is Guidepost unique?
O’Connell: There are many firms that provide security and investigative services. However, Guidepost offers an extensive menu of additional services to complement those offered through private client protection. This is what makes us unique.

A good example of this is that we deal with very sensitive immigration cases involving efforts by non-U.S. citizens who want to lawfully enter the U.S. but who are having trouble with visa issues. Another example is our team of architects and engineers who design the most sophisticated and effective technology systems for physical security and safety purposes. It doesn’t matter if the need is for high-net-worth individuals and their family members, their places of business or for large-scale global events. 

Prince: What is your role at Guidepost?
O’Connell: I oversee many of the cases from a very high level and, when appropriate, I’m the client’s central point of contact. It’s important to me and our high-net-worth clients that I’m very hands on. Considering the sensitivity of the various investigation and security matters we deal with, being hands on means I’m truly available 24/7. 

One of the more valuable jobs I have is strategizing with the company’s high-net-worth clients. It’s essential they understand the best options and course of actions specific to their matter. I’m also there to troubleshoot issues as they arise throughout the case and serve as the liaison between our field investigators, clients and other involved parties, such as the client’s advisors. In addition, I’m sometimes called in to counsel individuals and family members on how to cope with a crisis and prepare them on what to expect in the weeks and months during an investigation.

Prince: Can you provide us with a few examples of some of your cases?
O’Connell: Some of our more high-profile cases involved Major League Baseball player Alex Rodriguez and, separately, former head of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn. 

In the case of Mr. Rodriguez, Guidepost was hired to investigate allegations of misconduct by Major League Baseball’s attorneys and investigators in their pursuit of Mr. Rodriguez. Guidepost’s role was to provide investigative services in an effort to ensure Mr. Rodriguez was receiving due process. 

Regarding Mr. Strauss-Kahn, Guidepost was retained to assist his counsel in the investigation of allegations of criminal conduct made against Mr. Strauss-Kahn by a hotel employee. Based in part on the evidence Guidepost gathered, the criminal charges against Mr. Strauss-Kahn were dropped by the district attorney’s office.

Another case involved a wealthy foreign businessman whose child was receiving medical treatment in the United States. When the client tried to renew his visa in an expedited manner so that he could take his child back and forth between the States and his resident country, federal agents with allegations of criminal conduct confronted him, and he was unable to renew his visa. We were brought in to investigate the allegations against him and to work with his counsel to liaise with government officials in order to resolve the matter. 

Prince: What do you see happening in the high-net-worth market in terms of the security of the wealthy?
O’Connell: The wealthy are much more global than ever before. They have a larger transnational footprint with more and more connections outside of their resident country. Corporate executives are conducting business on a more international basis. What this all means is that they’re more vulnerable to international financial fraud schemes. Sophisticated and resourceful criminals and extortionists from all over the world are looking at them as targets, raising the threat level for the wealthy.

Another serious and growing concern for the high-net-worth market is their children, who live and breathe on social media. All of their contacts and their contacts’ contacts have specific details regarding the who, what, where and when of their and their family’s vacations, extra-curricular activities, favorite shops and restaurants, gadgets, etc. Besides the cyber security problems that are emerging every day as a result of this social media activity, the children of the ultra-wealthy are much more vulnerable to physical security risks.

Prince: How does Guidepost address these issues?
O’Connell: There are many ways to deal with these situations and we work very hard to provide highly customized, highly focused solutions. Still, there are some basic fundamentals. For example, many times the first point of contact from an extortionist or kidnapper is through someone working for a high-net-worth individual or one of his or her family members. In many of these scenarios, we counsel and train our clients’ entourages and personal assistants and advisors on how to spot red flags and react in a proactive manner when they are approached by anyone, from undercover paparazzi or foreign agents looking to breach individual or corporate secrets—before reputations and assets are compromised. 

As I mentioned, since the ultra-wealthy are making new connections every day, whether it’s in person or through the Internet, we’re regularly called in to conduct due diligence on the many parties involved in a business transaction. We’ve also helped many executives advance business opportunities through counseling on the security risks associated with opening an office in Mexico, for example. We investigated the parties involved, reported our findings, and made recommendations so our clients could make informed and educated decisions. Perhaps they are purchasing a company. Does that company have earning potential? Why is the business for sale? These are two very important risk factors to consider, and through proper due diligence, the various risks associated with such a transaction can be minimized.

Our state-of-the-art cyber protection programs are designed to deter and detect hackers. We perform cyber vulnerability assessments on mobile devices, home and office computers, networks, etc., to protect children and others from cyber dangers.

I can list more and more ways we help the wealthy address these matters. What’s critical to understand is that, while there are overlapping elements, each of our engagements is unique because of the people involved and the particular circumstances. This is why we’re ready and able to deliver bespoke solutions to every client.

Prince: Where do you see the potential for growth in Guidepost’s other services?
O’Connell: Helping foreign countries, specifically in Latin America, with crime problems is an area of growth. We partnered with Rudy Giuliani to provide crime reduction strategies, criminal justice reform and help governments secure their borders. In addition, through our “Bode” brand, we can further assist these countries with DNA testing, storage, analysis, lab building and staff training. 

 

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