internal investigations

The attorney-client privilege, which prohibits the compelled disclosure of confidential communications between an attorney and their client, is enshrined in common law and statutory codes across the country. See, e.g., Cal. Evid. Code § 950 et seq.; Upjohn Co. v. United States, 449 U.S. 383, 389 (1981) (the fundamental purpose of the attorney-client privilege “is to encourage full and frank communication between attorneys and their clients and thereby promote broader public interests in the observance of law and administration of justice”).

The long-standing recognition of this privilege reflects the policy decision that the encouragement of candor between lawyers and clients outweighs probative and evidentiary value of those frank communications to the administration of justice.

But what happens when a different policy choice is made?
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It always comes when you least expect it – a government inquiry to investigate your business. While it may instill a sense of panic, there are steps you can take to make sure you’re in the best position possible when the investigation begins.

This blog series developed by Chrysty Esperanza, Litigation Counsel at Square, Inc., will address this main question: When you receive a subpoena, CID, or informal request from the government, how should you respond?


Cooperation and Voluntary Disclosure Issues – Benefits + Risks of Self Reporting

The Foreign Corrupt Policies Act (FCPA) unit at the DOJ recently enacted its Corporate Enforcement Policy. According to the policy, if a company self-reports an FCPA violation and cooperates fully and timely, there is a presumption of declination of prosecution.  However, there is an exception – the presumption will not apply if there are aggravating circumstances that warrant a criminal investigation,
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It always comes when you least expect it – a government inquiry to investigate your business. While it may instill a sense of panic, there are steps you can take to make sure you’re in the best position possible when the investigation begins.

This blog series by Chrysty Esperanza, Litigation Counsel at Square, Inc., will address this main question: When you receive a subpoena, CID, or informal request from the government, how should you respond?


When Civil and Criminal Investigations Collide

Civil and criminal investigations are not as separate as you may think, and it is quite possible they may blend together.  While an internal investigation may be launched in response to a civil request from a government agency, the degree of cooperation between civil and criminal government agencies means an open civil investigation can easily trigger a criminal inquiry. When parallel civil and criminal investigations occur jointly, the government agencies may share the work and information from their respective investigations.  For example, a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will always note that information discovered during the investigation can be shared with multiple agencies, like the Department of Justice (DOJ). 
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It always comes when you least expect it – a government inquiry to investigate your business. While it may instill a sense of panic, there are steps you can take to make sure you’re in the best position possible when the investigation begins.

This blog series developed by Chrysty Esperanza, Litigation Counsel at Square, Inc., will address this main question: When you receive a subpoena, CID, or informal request from the government, how should you respond?


How do you find the right lawyer to conduct an internal investigation?

When an issue arises that requires an internal investigation, determining who handles the investigation may have a significant impact on the investigation itself. There are basically two options:  use in-house resources or hire outside counsel.  Usually, it is preferable to hire outside counsel, especially where the issues being investigated are serious or involve concerns as to management integrity.  Doing so conveys to the government that you are taking the investigation seriously.  Engaging outside counsel also provides more credibility where senior management are being asked to provide information, and demonstrates your appreciation and understanding of the complexity of the investigation.  It also conveys to senior management internally the seriousness of the matter.  In addition, outside counsel can provide a fresh and objective perspective on your internal practices and may even provide an opportunity to benchmark your business with industry standards and best practices of other companies.
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At a recent panel organized by San Francisco’s Federal Bar Association, the San Francisco Regional Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Jina Choi, confirmed that the agency continues to focus on investor fraud in the pre-IPO private market space. Highlighting enforcement actions against the non-public Zenefits, Credit Karma, and Theranos[1]

Demonstrating and ensuring independence in internal investigations is a critical issue for corporate counsel to consider, especially when facing or anticipating parallel regulatory probes. How to properly do so is a nuanced process. As this piece published by Corporate Compliance Insights explores, it is not as simple as the binary question of whether counsel conducting

person using touch screenIt doesn’t take a millennial to know that these days not all pertinent business-related communications are to be found on corporate e-mail servers. As we have increasingly seen in recent internal investigations, the most important written communications (especially between high-level executives), are now to be found in a place that most lawyers at the senior level have for years either ignored altogether or for some reason considered untouchable – cell phone text messages. The New York Times recently reported on the implications of this trend—which is hardly new— of executives at all levels taking sensitive communications off e-mail. See As Elites Switch to Texting, Watchdogs Fear Loss of Transparency.

The same potential loss of key communications from “the record” are present in internal corporate investigations where texts are left out of the investigation plan. If text messages and other forms of messaging are not fully considered, an internal investigation result may be at best incomplete or at worst incorrect. The worst mistake is when investigators assume that if communications are not found in corporate e-mail that they did not occur, and draw inferences based on that assumption. But text messages can be difficult to collect from individuals, and, due to a patchwork of inconsistent corporate policies regarding their preservation and use, may present privacy considerations on behalf of the individuals who are texting. Those difficulties begin to make it more understandable why most internal investigators would prefer to ignore their existence altogether and simply rely on easily attainable, and searchable, corporate e-mail.
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