KEY CONCLUSION: Questionnaire and interviews are an important and integral part of due diligence projects.

A very important portion of a due diligence project is the completion of an ASTM Questionnaire, often called an interview form. As specified in ASTM E 1527-05, standard practice for Environmental Site Assessments, the objective of the interview is to “obtain information indicating recognized environmental conditions in connection with the property.”

The ASTM standard specifies the environmental professional (EP) should interview the key site manager; this could be the owner of the property, an operator of the business or occupants. In some cases, it is considered advisable to interview some or all of these parties and sometimes even previous owners or occupants. It is up to the discretion of the EP about whom to interview and also to decide when to obtain the interview information.

In practice, ERAS usually interviews, or even more commonly, requests the owner of the property to complete the questionnaire, BEFORE the project proceeds significantly. This is so that the information obtained from the owner, usually representing the most recent uses of the Property, can be dovetailed with file review requests and review of other historical information. Receiving timely interview information is even more important for Environmental Transaction Screen (ETS) projects where environmental research is usually much more limited than for Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) projects.

In some cases, the interview information can be used to greatly expedite the due diligence process by allowing assessment of what research information is actually required. In extreme cases, answers to an interview form can be used to document whether significant environmental information was withheld from the buyer or financier.