French Venture Expands Digital Forensics to Fight Corruption


A government-backed French venture is pooling resources of two top security experts to use digital tools for spotting corruption while allaying European fears of data leakage when dealing with global providers.

ADIT, a strategic intelligence firm headed by Philippe Caduc and affiliated with the French government, is joining forces with Bruno Delamotte, founder of the security firm Risk & Co. The ADIT Digital Network will offer a so-called ‘sovereign’ digital forensics service to French companies that don’t completely trust similar services from global groups such as Kroll, FTI Consulting or the big four accounting, audit and consultancy firms.

European companies have resisted cloud cyber-services from American and other global vendors for fear of their confidential data being located on servers beyond the reach of national authorities. But the growing need to navigate massive amounts of data to comply with cyber-security regulations is making such services indispensable.

Digital forensics is one of these services, as the number of devices and messages increases geometrically, complicating compliance on a range of issues, notably detection of corruption.

Keeping US regulators at bay

PwC saysOpens a new window  its Digital Forensics and eDiscovery professionals “help our clients navigate the legal and business processes mandated by critical events, such as disputes, enforcement matters, cyber-breaches, investigations and whistle-blower allegations”.

Vendors use forensic tools and artificial intelligence to retrieve evidence from e-mails, servers and mobile phones that might indicate non-compliance. The zeal of US authorities in pursuing corruption on the part of European companies and levying fines on them, combined with France’s Loi Sapin legislation requiring firms to be vigilant when they transmit data, make this a critical issue for firms operating in France. Data must be protected from the time of extraction and comply with auditable rules.

The global market leaders have reacted defensively to the new venture. “A French forensic firm doesn’t have a ‘sovereign’ monopoly,” says Stéphanie LhommeOpens a new window , a specialist for Washington, DC-based FTI, who says the firm keeps evidence of corruption or fraud for French clients on specially-dedicated servers in France.

Lhomme also notes that French company data is often located outside the country in foreign operations and thus exposed. Plus, she says, if companies are worried about penalties in the US, a Washington firm familiar with American legal provisions could serve them better.

Well-connected to the French state

ADIT is comfortably housed on Paris’s Quai Anatole France near France’s National Assembly and the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs on the Quai d’Orsay in a way that reinforces its claim to be more sovereign than FTI or other ‘Anglo-Saxon’ firms.

It’s been instrumental in developing economic intelligence departments at various government agencies, dealing with information concerning the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, as well as labor, finance, taxation, and other aspects of a national economy or the international economic system. The specific tasks of digital forensics fall within its remit.

ADIT is 66% owned by Paris-based alternative investment firm Weinberg Capital Partners (not to be confused with Ohio’s similarly-named Weinberg Capital Group), although the company is shopping its stake around. Bpifrance, a public sector investment institution, holds 33%, while the French government, which founded the organization in 1992, maintains its connection via a preference share.

Blue-chip client base

ADIT works primarily with constituent companies of France’s blue-chip CAC 40 stock index, but the government gave up its majority control deliberately to enable the firm to expand beyond the country’s borders.

The other partner in the new joint venture and ADN’s chairman, Bruno Delamotte, has broad experience in security matters in Latin America, Africa and Asia. He worked for France’s General Secretariat for Defense and National Security, an inter-ministerial body specialized in matters including counter-terrorism and economic intelligence that reports directly to the prime minister, as well as Intelco, a state-backed economic intelligence group, before launching his own consulting firm.

If all this has a whiff of the dark underbelly of international finance, it’s simply part of the environment in which global companies operate. Highly specialized teams at global consulting firms can complement their own IT expertsOpens a new window in helping groups to balance a range of compliance and regulatory issues. ADIT has added another option to the mix for those determined to resist the dominance of English as the lingua franca of the cyber-world.