Priming Practice Pointer from Pompeo – say that 10 times fast!


Workplace investigators often caution their clients against “priming” an investigation.  Priming occurs when a client or its counsel, upon commencement of an impartial investigation, tells the investigator their own assessment of the weight of the evidence or the credibility of witnesses.  We share a prominent example from the news.  Secretary of State Pompeo recently announced an investigation into the allegation that the former ambassador to Ukraine was under surveillance.  When making that announcement, he said “I suspect that much of what’s been reported will ultimately prove wrong, but our obligation, my obligation as secretary of state, is to make sure that we evaluate, investigate. Any time there is someone who posits that there may have been a risk to one of our officers, we’ll obviously do that.”  The first part of the statement clearly expresses his views regarding the credibility of the allegation.  Particularly if the investigation fails to substantiate the allegation, such a comment will make it more difficult to later argue that the investigation was impartial (even if it was).