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A lead from investigative journalism

BackTrack Reports' office might bring to mind Philip Marlowe's but the founders of the background check firm, a specialist in hedge funds, reckon the methods of investigative journalists serve its clients better than private-eye or police approaches.

THE PAPER FILES are thick and stacked all around the meeting room. The cabinets are already full. It feels so much like a 1940s' black-and-white movie that you really don't want this to be anything other than a detective agency. The elevator ride up to the office adds to the effect - it's stifling in Manhattan's muggy summer air.

The main office is one big loft-like room. Fans whirr overhead. The bosses, Randy Shain and Chris Manthey, sit at one end by the window. Only the computers they and their employees have on their desks indicate that it is 2003.

It's in this office, in the Chelsea district of Manhattan, that the two founders of BackTrack Reports, 10 years old this month, have built a successful niche investigative firm specializing in carrying out background checks for its financial-services clients on individuals in charge of companies that they are considering investing in.

The founders decided to start BackTrack mainly, says Shain, "because we felt we could". But they had also become increasingly frustrated with their previous employer, investigative firm Bishop Services.

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