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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Winter 2013

Government Investigations Erica Barnes An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth A Pound of Cure: 10 Quick Tips For Preparing Your Employees To Deal With Government Agents In an era marked by an increased focus on regulatory off enses and fraud and waste in business transactions involving government funds, almost any business, anywhere, regardless of size may fi nd itself the subject of a government investigation. Almost anything can trigger an investigation including media reports, hotline complaints, interviews with current and former employees, regulatory audits, and stockholder derivative suits. If a company is the subject of an investigation, it is not a matter of if, but when, government agents will try to contact its present or former employees. If not managed properly, these interviews can have devastating consequences for the company and the employees involved and increase the risk of criminal, civil or administrative penalties. Present or former employees often feel obligated to speak with a government agent, either out of a sense of fear or a desire to “cooperate” with law enforcement, even if it is not in their, or the company’s best interest to do so. Caught by surprise and eager to be helpful, employees often speculate, provide inaccurate information, fail to protect proprietary or confi dential information, or turn over things that the government would not otherwise have had access to without a subpoena or a search warrant. Nervous and concerned about their own potential wrongdoing or about protecting the company, employees exaggerate, lie or otherwise provide misinformation. Once the company, or its counsel, learns about what was said (if it learns at all), the damage has been done. Here, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Companies who suspect an investigation or who operate in industries, such as healthcare, that are frequently the subject of investigation, or the counsel who represents them, should make sure that employees know: 38 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Winter 2013
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