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View Full Version : What's the extent of power in looking up employee financial info?



ErezMA
08-02-2015, 11:51 PM
The title sounds confusing - I know. I tried writing it three times. I just figure I'll explain it over here:

My villain is the CEO of a financial management/solutions company. He is seen as a tough, but very fair boss who treats his employees fantastically. (It's almost like you're working for Google.) He's interested in the finances of his employees and originally, I wrote down that one of his employees got drunk and lost a lot of money at the casino. A beta reader just told me that the villain being able to know about his losses may be illegal on the grounds that it violates private employee info.

This leads me to the question of how much can an employer know about the financial situation of their employees? I know there's a lot that can be done pre-employment, such as credit checks and such. What about during employment?

If it helps, this story is based in a fictional town in Pennsylvania.

Bing Z
08-03-2015, 01:29 AM
He is the villain, so let's forget about legality and moral.

Bit how does the CEO look up his employee's financial information? Does he steal bank statements (or those from financial institutions like Morgan Stanley)? Does he mandate his employees regularly report their status? Does he have a computer that will mystically provide him with all ongoing private information? Is he a buddy of the casino boss who tells him everything after a few drinks?

Yeah, you are right. This part is the problem.

ErezMA
08-03-2015, 01:36 AM
Sorry, I'll clarify:

First off - YES, he is the villain, but everyone in the world loves him like Jesus at the Vatican. No one knows (at least at this point in the novel) that he is in any way villainous. Also, the way that I had this information be known in the story is that he's had private investigators, who work for my villain, take a look.

Initially, one of my main characters, who also works for the villain, requested a loan. Bureaucratic stuff happens and it reaches the CEO/villain's ears. He informs the PIs/agents. They investigate and return the information to the CEO/villain, who then informs the MC/person who applied for the loans.

jclarkdawe
08-03-2015, 01:53 AM
If we're not going to worry about what's legal, this is easy to solve. As is the habit of so many employees, during work time they use the company computer to check their bank account. Boss's IT dude checks their internet history (can easily set up the computer to alert IT guy when certain banks gets accessed (remember if the employee uses direct deposit the employer already knows the bank the employee uses).

Using key stroke logs, it's relatively easy to get account number and password. All your bad guy has to do is go in and check his employees bank accounts whenever he wants.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

ErezMA
08-03-2015, 01:57 AM
If we're not going to worry about what's legal, this is easy to solve. As is the habit of so many employees, during work time they use the company computer to check their bank account. Boss's IT dude checks their internet history (can easily set up the computer to alert IT guy when certain banks gets accessed (remember if the employee uses direct deposit the employer already knows the bank the employee uses).

Using key stroke logs, it's relatively easy to get account number and password. All your bad guy has to do is go in and check his employees bank accounts whenever he wants.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

No, I want to go by what is legal.

But since you brought up the idea, if there is no-web surfing policy and they found the MC was searching up banking info, couldn't that likely be legal?

jclarkdawe
08-03-2015, 03:56 AM
There is no way to make this legal, other than maybe under an employment contract, and I doubt that would work.

In hiring, an employer can look at your credit history, but that only indicates unpaid bills, liens, and other problems. A credit history does not indicate bank balances or investments.

Banking information is protected by a privacy act, and a bank is not allowed to give out this information without a warrant or permission of the customer. Any hacking into a bank account violates federal and probably state law.

Only way your guy is going to find out what happened in Vegas legally is for your employee to tell him.

Best of luck

Jim Clark-Dawe

WeaselFire
08-03-2015, 06:03 AM
Many employment contracts allow monitoring of credit and financial reports for those involved in financial deals for the company. Background checks are also allowed by contract for many firms, especially security and tech firms that may work on government projects.

But... Gambling income is only legal in specific states and specific situations and any financial records would not normally indicate source of a loss of funds. Easiest legal way to find out is office gossip. The guy's administrative assistant likely knows.

Jeff

MythMonger
08-03-2015, 08:21 PM
If the drinking and gambling loss happened while he was on a company trip, say, a convention to Vegas, that could change things. An employer can take steps to ensure his employees are acting appropriately and are good representatives of the company. It might be considered a legal grey area to investigate these gambling losses.

If some or all of the gambling losses were put on a company credit card, that might also be a way to find out.

Maybe the employee is starting to get calls from creditors while at work? I believe it's illegal for creditors to call someone at their place of employment, but that doesn't always stop them. They could also call the employee through their personal cell phone, which they could have on them while at work.

I'll stop. I'm just throwing ideas at you now. :)

frimble3
08-04-2015, 08:14 AM
'Interested in the finances of his employees'? Right there, I knew he was the villain, 'cause that's just creepy! Unless the employee is in a position to damage the company because of his financial problems, the employer's 'interest' should consist of raising their pay.

However, if he's that kind of a control freak, he's probably got spies throughout the organization, people who keep tabs on the staff and bring him any particularly interesting snippets. If your employee is the kind of person who goes to Vegas to drink and gamble, make him a friendly, chatty guy. He assumes he's just telling a buddy about his great little getaway, and just sort of tacks on the bit about losing. The snitch casually prods for more information, gradually eliciting exactly how much he lost. Then, the snitch hotfoots it to the boss's office, under the guise of some sort of meeting.

He might not get the exact figure, but probably close enough for whatever nefarious scheme the villain has in mind.

Taejang
08-04-2015, 05:46 PM
The guy who lost can just post about it on Facebook. Probably in a drunken rant. When he sobers up, he then removes the post, but the boss (or one of his 'minions') could have already seen the post by then.

As others have said, there are very few ways to make this kind of spying legal. 1) The individual discloses the information to someone, either the boss, someone who tells the boss, or publicly (a-la Facebook). 2) The boss works for some branch of law enforcement and can justify looking into their financials somehow. 3) The employee(s) in question work in a very specific capacity that actually allows the information to be company record. You'll have to look up what positions exactly allow that kind of contract, but it is pretty rare (at least, in the USA).

Now, you can have your boss do this illegally and still be well-liked. Either nobody knows he does it (meaning he does it himself or pays somebody else very well to both gather information and keep quiet), or he is so well liked and believed that he can literally ask somebody and they will fudge for him. (Ex: "So, I know you can't share details about your clients' accounts, but I heard some disturbing news about Frank. I'm really worried about him. You know he got into a car accident last month, right? I thought about giving him an advance to help cover the repairs. And now I hear he lost 10k in a drunken gambling spree." "Well, I can't say exactly... it wasn't quite ten thousand, but it was quite a bit.")

wendymarlowe
08-11-2015, 09:05 AM
Dunno what industry this is, but I know federal employees can be required to disclose this sort of thing if they have security clearance - the idea being anything that might put you in a blackmailable/compromising position needs to be made available to your employer so it can't be used to force you to do things.

Connecticut Yankee
08-13-2015, 11:08 PM
Hey, I work in finance and had an idea for you. My current (and past) employer trades in securities markets. Because of that, all employees are required to report all brokerage transactions and account balances to the compliance department. Our compliance department gets an automatic feed from my brokerage firm with all trades and monthly statements.

Someone internally could easily know that the person sold off a buttload of the securities in their retirement account and withdrew the cash. The timing of this with a public trip to the casino could easily tip off anyone who is paying attention. Chief Compliance Officer and CEO would certainly qualify. Person goes gambling on the weekend, comes back despondent on Monday, files a bunch of preclearances for personal trades, executes, withdraws cash, and as it happens to be near the end of the month, the CCO/CEO see the new account balance at the end of the week.

Just a thought as someone who works in finance (asset management now, investment banking then). Also happy to answer any other finance-related questions if you are writing outside your actual area of expertise.