Dodgy Director? Watch that web footprint…

This piece of investigative journalism brought a smile to my face:

All these company filings demonstrate that LCL, which Whyte is said to have founded, was created before the businessman’s ban on starting a new company expired. LCL also has a digital footprint which shows it was active prior to the end of Whyte’s disqualification. The domain name for the firm’s website was registered in October 2005. The registrant’s address was given as “Liberty Capital” at 65 Bath Street in Glasgow.

Archived versions of the firm’s web pages show LCL was offering its services while Whyte’s sanction was in place. A screen-grab of the website from December 5 2006, months before the ban ended, revealed LCL offering advice on “insolvency”, “receivership” and “liquidation”. The firm’s website also flagged up a service for “CVA”, otherwise known as Company Voluntary Arrangements. Coincidentally, CVA has been cited by Rangers as the preferred route out of the Glasgow club’s difficulties.

The web-grab also shows a news feed containing summaries of stories from 2006, with headlines such as “Scottish corporate failures rise by 17%”. LCL offered expertise on debt renegotiation and creditors, adding: “We buy distressed companies.” A telephone number for the Bath Street office is provided, next to a sales pitch: “Contact us now – for a confidential chat to discuss your specific situation.”

Full article in the Sunday Herald (registration may be required).

The reason it brought a smile – aside from being very good web research – is that a client once asked me, at quarter to midnight, to remove information from his web site because the very journalist who wrote the article above was, as he put it, “out to get me!” It turns out the journalist was sniffing around for a reason: I had a Walter Mitty fantasist on my books.

The client, like the individual mentioned in the Sunday Herald piece, was both technically ignorant and personally arrogant. This unsavoury combination meant that both individuals simply did not understand that deleting text off a web site does not delete it from existence. A few minutes of structured intelligent web research can construct a digital footprint which, as in the example above, exposes a carefully constructed lie. And if that lie has taken a lot of innocent people down with it, the information can and will be exposed. Thus ever to tyrants.

If you’re interested in learning how to conduct web research like this, I’ve just launched a revamp for Colin Meek, a professional journalism and research trainer. His web site and blog offer bite-sized lessons on digging deeper past the surface of the web to find the information that really counts.

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