Category Archives: Corporate Investigations

Recent Decision Finds Waiver Based on “Oral Downloads” to the SEC

by Brad S. Karp, Jessica S. Carey, Andrew J. Ehrlich, Roberto Finzi, Michael E. Gertzman, Michele HirshmanDaniel J. Kramer, Lorin L. Reisner, Richard A. Rosen, Audra J. Soloway, Richard C. Tarlowe, Andrew D. Reich, and Joseph Delich

A federal magistrate judge in the Southern District of Florida recently ruled that a law firm had waived work product protection over notes and memoranda of witness interviews when it provided “oral downloads” of those interviews to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).

In a December 5, 2017 opinion, SEC Herrera, No. 17-cv-20301 (S.D. Fla. Dec. 5, 2017), Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman indicated that he was “not convinced” that “there is a meaningful distinction between the actual production of a witness interview note or memo and providing the same or similar information orally.”[1]

The opinion serves as an important reminder of the risks of waiver—and the need to take steps to minimize those risks—when disclosing information to a government agency. Continue reading

English Litigation Privilege in Internal Investigations: Not Quite Dead Yet?

by Kelly Hagedorn

Following the decisions in The RBS Rights Issue Litigation[1] and Serious Fraud Office v Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation Limited[2] (“ENRC”), it was thought that the prospect of claiming legal professional privilege in English proceedings over interview memoranda generated during internal investigations was slim (see our client alert on those two cases here).  However, a recent decision of the English High Court in Bilta (UK) Limited and Others v (1) Royal Bank of Scotland Plc (2) Mercuria Energy Europe Trading Limited[3] (“Bilta”) has refused the disclosure of interview memoranda on the basis of litigation privilege, providing a glimmer of hope for corporates who seek to protect such documents from disclosure. Continue reading

The New DOJ FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy Highlights the Continued Importance of Anti-Corruption Compliance

by Lisa Vicens, Jonathan Kolodner, and Eric Boettcher

In a significant development for companies relating to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), in late November the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a new FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy (the Enforcement Policy).

The Enforcement Policy[1] is designed to encourage companies to voluntarily disclose misconduct by providing greater transparency concerning the amount of credit the DOJ will give to companies that self-report, fully cooperate and appropriately remediate misconduct. Notably, in announcing the Enforcement Policy, the DOJ highlighted the continued critical role that anti-corruption compliance programs play in its evaluation of eligibility under the Enforcement Policy. Continue reading

Securities Fraud Class Action Suits following Cyber Breaches: The Trickle Before the Wave

by Michael S. Flynn, Avi Gesser, Joseph A. Hall, Edmund Polubinski III, Neal A. Potischman, Brian S. Weinstein, Peter Starr and Jessica L. Turner

Overview

Large-scale data breaches can give rise to a host of legal problems for the breached entity, ranging from consumer class action litigation to congressional inquiries and state attorneys general investigations.  Increasingly, issuers are also facing the specter of federal securities fraud litigation.[1]

The existence of securities fraud litigation following a cyber breach is, to some extent, not surprising.  Lawyer-driven securities litigation often follows stock price declines, even declines that are ostensibly unrelated to any prior public disclosure by an issuer.  Until recently, significant declines in stock price following disclosures of cyber breaches were rare.  But that is changing.  The recent securities fraud class actions brought against Yahoo! and Equifax demonstrate this point; in both of those cases, significant stock price declines followed the disclosure of the breach.  Similar cases can be expected whenever stock price declines follow cyber breach disclosures.  Continue reading

Oral Downloads of Interview Memoranda to Government Regulators Waive Work Product Protection

by Andrew J. Ceresney, Bruce E. Yannett, Kara N. Brockmeyer, Robert B. Kaplan, Julie M. Riewe, Colby A. Smith, Jonathan R. Tuttle, Ada Fernandez Johnson, and Ajani B. Husbands

In a decision that makes clear the importance for counsel conducting internal investigations to think carefully about the consequences of providing oral summaries of witness interviews to government investigators, a federal Magistrate Judge recently held that a law firm waived work product protection for its interview memoranda when counsel provided oral downloads of those interviews to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).[1] Noting that “very few decisions are consequence free events,” the Court held that there was “little to no substantive distinction” for purposes of work product waiver between providing the actual notes and memoranda and reading or orally summarizing the notes. The Court, however, rejected the notion that a waiver of work product protection extends to information the law firm shared with its client’s accounting firm, holding that the accounting firm and the company shared a “common interest.” Continue reading

DOJ Expands and Codifies Policy Incentivizing Corporations to Voluntarily Self-Disclose FCPA Violations

by Eric Volkman, Erin Brown Jones, and Bridget R. Reineking

On November 29, 2017, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has implemented a permanent, revised version of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Pilot Program.[1] The Pilot Program — which was launched as a one-year trial in April 2016 by then-Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division (and now Latham partner) Leslie Caldwell — was extended indefinitely in April 2017 to allow DOJ to evaluate the program’s efficacy.[2] Rosenstein announced that the enhanced policy — now called the FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy (FCPA Policy) — will be incorporated into the United States Attorneys’ Manual (USAM). Like its predecessor, the FCPA Policy aims to encourage companies to make timely and voluntary disclosures of wrongdoing under the FCPA, while providing additional concrete incentives rewarding corporations for cooperation.

This policy announcement is likely the first of several DOJ policy changes and/or enhancements under the new administration. As detailed in Latham’s October 2017 Client Alert, Rosenstein recently announced that DOJ was reviewing a wide range of existing corporate enforcement policies, including the Pilot Program, DOJ’s policy on “Individual Accountability for Corporate Wrongdoing” (the Yates Memo), and other DOJ policies and memoranda — with the intention of ultimately incorporating the revised policies into the USAM. Continue reading

A French Court Authorizes the First-Ever “French DPA”

by Frederick T. Davis

In December 2016 the French government finally passed the so-called “Loi Sapin II” in order to bolster its ability to penalize overseas bribery. Its unstated but clear goal was to achieve some degree of parity with US efforts in this area, which had led to a number of highly publicized cases where well-known French companies had paid fines totaling well over $2 billion to the US treasury to resolve criminal matters that could well have been resolved in France.  A key provision of the new law is a procedure that permits a negotiated outcome, similar in concept to a US Deferred Prosecution Agreement (“DPA”), that avoids a criminal conviction.  On November 14, 2017, the first such agreement was announced by the National Financial Prosecutor of France.  While many details of the deal will not be known until the release of the court’s opinion approving it, which may be available as early as the end of November, the fact of the outcome and its known parameters are very significant. Continue reading

Russia Considers Enhanced Whistleblower Protections

by Jane Shvets, Anna V. Maximenko, and Elena Klutchareva

Effective anti-corruption compliance programs include protections for whistleblowers that raise corruption concerns.  Article 13.3 of Russia‘s 2008 Federal Law No. 273-FZ on Counteracting Corruption (the “Anti-Corruption Law”) addressed Russian lawmakers’ expectations regarding effective compliance programs.[1]  But the law was silent on whistleblower protections.  Recently proposed legislation in Russia may help address this gap.

Even before the Anti-Corruption Law came into effect, Russian law included several provisions that could be interpreted to provide some protection for whistleblowers.  For example, Russian employment law prohibits discrimination and sets out an exhaustive list of permissible grounds for dismissing an employee for cause; firing an employee for blowing the whistle on potential corruption is not among them.  As a result, firing an employee for whistleblowing could ran afoul of Russian employment law.  In addition, the Russian government can protect individuals whose security might be threatened as a result of their participation in criminal proceedings that involve alleged corruption.  The state might, for example, provide such witnesses with physical protection, relocate them, or even give them new identities. Continue reading

The Second Circuit Clarifies How U.S. Constitutional Principles Apply in Multijurisdictional Investigations

By Frederick T. Davis

In United States v. Allen, the Second Circuit held that self-incriminating statements compelled by a foreign sovereign cannot be used, directly or indirectly, in a U.S. prosecution. The opinion thoughtfully analyzes how U.S. constitutional principles apply in cross-border investigations and may have some impact on how such investigations are conducted in the future.

During the well-known investigations of alleged manipulation of the London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”), U.K. citizens and low-level bank employees Anthony Allen and Anthony Conti were suspected of artificially adjusting exchange rate information to affect LIBOR and benefit their confederates.  The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) compelled Allen and Conti’s testimony under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (“FSMA”). The FSMA provides that the FCA could not use Allen and Conti’s statements against them but could use the “fruits” of any investigation developed on the basis of their statements. The FCA also compelled testimony from Paul Robson, one of Allen and Conti’s co-workers, who provided generally exculpatory information regarding himself, Allen and Conti.  Later, the FCA commenced an enforcement action against Robson and provided him with transcripts of Allen’s and Conti’s statements, which Robson carefully reviewed.  The FCA ultimately decided not to prosecute Allen, Conti, or Robson. Continue reading

The Growing Danger to Privilege in Investigations

 by Peter Pope, Kelly Hagedorn, Katie Gibbons and Tracey Lattimer

More than three decades ago, the U.S. Supreme Court held that memoranda and notes of interviews that lawyers conduct of a corporate client’s employees are generally protected from disclosure by both the attorney-client privilege and the attorney work-product doctrine.  See Upjohn co. v. United States, 499 U.S. 383 (1981).

In two recent cases, the English High Court of Justice ruled the opposite way under English law, holding that notes and interview memoranda created in internal investigations enjoyed no privilege protection at all.  Instead, both English judgments ordered the lawyers’ notes and interview memoranda to be turned over – in one instance to prosecutors and in another to private litigants.  See Serious Fraud Office v Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation Ltd [2017] EWHC 1017 (QB) (hereinafter “ENRC”); The RBS Rights Issue Litigation [2016] EWHC 3161 (Ch) (hereinafter “RBS”). Continue reading