Financial lawyer sees company of 40 to 50 employees

[caption id="attachment_28711" align="alignleft" width="288" caption="Forensics Group founder Kris Haworth is an international computer forensics expert."][/caption]

PETALUMA – An international computer detection expert has launched her own company in Petaluma and intends to grow it into a 30- to 40-employee operation.

The Forensics Group founder Kris Haworth is an attorney who has advanced the legality and science of computer forensics in cases spanning the globe.

With a client list of U.S. law firms, courts and corporations, she’s set up shop in Sonoma County’s second-largest city.

“I’m ready for the autonomy of my own company, and I fell in love with Petaluma – the downtown vibe, the theater district, the central North Bay location,” said Ms. Haworth, who lives with her husband in Tiburon.

A background in financial law – including work for Deloitte Touche and Arthur Andersen – led to her career in sleuthing. Ms. Haworth is frequently called in to sift through computer files looking for evidence of intellectual property theft, international bribery and all sorts of corporate malfeasance.

“I look at financial records, but about 90 percent of the evidence I find is in e-mails. It’s amazing what people will put into e-mail without ever thinking it’ll show up,” she said.

The Forensics Group offers seminars to address electronic discovery issues of both law firms and corporations, including what can and can’t be found on a hard drive, means of data collections and use of data as legal evidence.

In her active practice she works with a network of about 100 partners to support her activities in various U.S. and foreign locales.

Ms. Haworth has been involved in several ground-breaking cases, including one against Playgirl Magazine that was significant in establishing computer searches as legitimate means of evidence gathering

“Some of those cases are only really interesting to lawyers,” she said. But there have been sensational cases as well. Searching the computers of Marjorie Knoller and her husband, Robert Noel, whose dogs mauled a San Francisco woman to death in 2001, turned up corroborating evidence of the couple’s connection with a Pelican Bay inmate.

A lot of Ms. Haworth’s work stems from the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which is meant to prevent U.S.-registered corporations and U.S. citizens from engaging in bribery abroad.

“That means I travel frequently to the Middle East, where oil production draws U.S. companies and where bribery is a way of doing business,” she said.

Working on her own or with a small team Ms. Haworth was earning revenues of between $1 million and $2 million a year. She expects those revenues to grow as she expands the work force of the Forensics Group.

The startup has been approached by investors.

“The type of investment we take in is largely dependent on the way we determine to grow the company,” she said.

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