Merlin Information and IRB Search: Consolidation in the personal information database industry is good for private investigators

Just look at the way Choicepoint has gone up in flames since its data security was compromised, after which it disowned its private investigator clients. Then you can grasp why PIs are tentative about the announced potential merger between Merlin Information Services (Merlindata) and IRBsearch. Private investigators, law enforcement, debt collectors and attorneys are heavy users of both these services, which continue to accommodate our business needs, unlike the formerly mentioned up-in-flames entity. Never mind, because IRBMerlin(?) will be able to offer a greater range of data than Choicepoint alone did.

Initially, the interface between each company and the user will continue to be the same, with the possible addition of an access route from one Web site to the other. I imagine that any alteration to the sites’ data or functionality will be well tested and likely be an improvement. IRB has some nice features but they could provide more transparency in the data date ranges and display of pricing – a tip they could gather from the Merlin service. The IRB corporate arms may be somewhat restrained by the information characteristics provided by Accurint, a LexisNexis company and the provider of all of IRB’s data.

Combining forces will create a company that will have more leverage to negotiate with their data suppliers and possibly acquire other data aggregators –perhaps some unique information sources from regional and specialty businesses.

Neither company has an announcement at their Web site but they released a joint statement, which I’m including here.
Merlin Information Services and IRBsearch Announce Letter of Intent to Merge

New Company will Create Expanded Solutions for Professional Investigators

KALISPELL, MT and TALLAHASSEE, FL., May 31, 2006—Merlin Information Services and IRBsearch, leading providers of public record and proprietary data to professionals for civil and criminal matters, jointly announce the signing of a letter of intent to merge. Terms of the merger were not disclosed.

The merger, which is subject to the execution of a definitive agreement and board approval of each company, provides the opportunity to significantly expand operations into a greater nationwide presence. The combination of Merlin’s state of the art data center and development capabilities along with IRBsearch’s unmatched person and asset locate products will provide professional investigators with a greater range of products and services.

Edward Eckland, Chief Executive Officer of IRBsearch, stated “This merger combines two highly experienced teams of dedicated professionals who share the same vision, values and goals.” Both Michael Dores, the founder of Merlin, and Darrell Goodwin, founder of IRBsearch, are licensed investigators with 39 years of combined investigative experience.

“We are very excited about the opportunities this merger will provide for our customers,” said Keith Brown, Merlin’s Chief Executive Officer. “The strength of products and services that IRBsearch provides in the investigative industry combined with Merlin’s skiptracing products and development capabilities, will truly create a one-stop shop for the markets we serve.” Brown continued.

The merged companies will continue to operate offices in Montana and Florida.

About Merlin Information Services

Merlin Information Services provides access to public record and other databases to investigative professionals who skiptrace, look for assets, run background checks or perform investigative work. Its reputation for high-quality data and flexible search and retrieval software makes Merlin a leader in the public record industry.

About IRBsearch

IRBsearch provides access to an unparalleled locate product using a proprietary compilation of billions of records that can be searched in fractions of seconds to provide instant investigative results. IRBsearch has become a leading investigative resource for professional investigators nationwide.

For additional information, contact Darrell Goodwin at (800) 447-2112 or Joanne Jackson at (800) 367-6646


4 thoughts on “Merlin Information and IRB Search: Consolidation in the personal information database industry is good for private investigators

  1. I’m concerned about the merger. Even though IRB goes back to ’87 when it was the International Research Bureau, in the opinion of many of my colleagues (nudge nudge), it hasn’t offered the level of customer service that Merlin has. I do not want to see a watered down or corner cutting version of Merlin. Bigger may not necessarily be better.

  2. It is great news about the merger. Both IRB and Merlin are great companies and have really supported the investigative industry.

    Maybe IRB will now have good customer service for a change. IRB has never taken into account its customers on the west coast and shuts down its operation right at 5pm East Coast time.(nothing against my fellow east coast investigators) Mike Dores and Merlin has always taken care of his west coast customers so hopefully good things will carry over in this merger. Customer service and customer friendly database has made it what it is today. Many times I have called IRB and they told me that they are east coast based and that they shut down at 5pm. When I commented to them that there are alot of West coast investigators they have said we do not have that many problems. Granted they have helped me the next day but when you are working on a case and need help and it is still normal working hours out here you do expect help like Merlin offers.

    IRB has a great database which I do use consistently. But I also use LocatePlus, ChoicePoint, Tracers Information, Flat Rate, LexusNexus, etc….

    Another interesting thing is that IRB several months ago took it’s pricing off of the search categories because they said they were making some changes. From what I was told through the grapevine it had more to do with they were selling the database info to law enforcement and attorneys and did not want to customers to know the price differences. This is why they have chosen to omit the prices from the search field. Granted we can go back to the main menu for the prices every time but it makes it more difficult. LocatePlus and Tracers Information still make it easy for investigators to check prices while they are still searching.

    My concern is with the merger is the easy to use searches and “Ultimate Weapon” that Merlin has and maintains is going to go the same way as the pricing info with IRB? Another concern it that during the merger that the “Ultimate Weapon” will be dropped since IRB charges us to get to the screen where we can determine if there are any records or not to check.

    Also the other database companies including Merlin give you the ability when you get the monthly invoice to see what searches you have been charged for. IRB however does not give you a monthly breakdown on its invoice but makes you go back to the database in order to retrieve it. This makes it difficult when you do monthly billing and you need your bookkeeper to go back into the database and get the info. I hope that this merger does not affect the simplified approach that Merlin has maintained over the years for its customers.

    I think that this merger will be good since I utilize both databases but they need to take the best of both worlds and combine them. Especially the Merlin customer service (which remembers its west coast customers), the monthly billing invoice breakdown, the great “Ultimate Weapon” and IRB’s databases.

    But we should always keep in the mind that with mergers work product, customer service and clients bases do change. Look at what happened when Prentice Hall, DBT and then IRSC went to Choice Point. Investigators were restricted from certain usage, monthly fees were added and eventually they did not want to do business with private investigators as much as they did law enforcement and attorneys.

  3. I hope they don’t lose the great customer service reputation Merlin has enjoyed, and which IRB does not have.

    This merger though may make it a potential target for Choicepoint and the other mega-aggregators to buy and fold like they have done others.

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