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Aaron Brecher is a litigator at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in Seattle. He focuses his practice on white collar, investigations, securities litigation, and compliance. He’s passionate about helping individuals and companies through some of their most difficult and sensitive challenges: investigations that could lead to government enforcement actions and resulting litigation. The views here are his own.

Following our recent post on disclosures to the EPA, this week we’re going to look at disclosures to outside auditors, often in the context of internal investigations, and steps to take to limit any waiver of attorney work-product protection.  Here we go . . .

Work-product protections are not automatically waived by disclosure to

Henry Friendly still has my vote for the title of greatest American judge who ever served at any level. It’s the country’s misfortune that he never served on the U.S. Supreme Court. He did, however, spend nearly thirty years on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, writing more than 1,000 opinions and carving out a reputation as one of the country’s most influential jurists. On March 10, 1986, thirty-two years ago today, Friendly died.

I’ve written at some length elsewhere about my definitely-not-unhealthy devotion to a long-deceased judge on an intermediate appellate court who, with a few exceptions, did not weigh in on the most hotly contested constitutional questions of the day. But Friendly’s reputation was built on his alarming analytical acuity, the lucidity of his writing, and his record of pragmatic decisions. He also had a great eye for talent: his law clerks included Chief Justice John Roberts, federal appellate judges Merrick Garland, A. Raymond Randolph, William Bryson, Pierre Leval, and Michael Boudin, and a slew of influential lawyers and academics including Bruce Ackerman, Larry Kramer, and Ruth Wedgewood.

For purposes of this blog, Friendly wrote several decisions addressing the scope of the attorney–client privilege and reviewing convictions for white collar crimes in an era when prosecutions for such crimes were relatively rare. Two of those decisions are discussed below and recounted in detail in David Dorsen’s excellent biography of Friendly.


Continue Reading This Day in White Collar History: Remembering Henry Friendly

“Don’t.”

I imagine that word—or else a prolonged stunned silence—was the response of many attorneys and non-attorneys alike when former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg announced in a series of bizarre interviews today that he planned to ignore a grand jury subpoena from the Special Counsel’s office. Nunberg then dared the government to arrest him for his refusal to cooperate.

As far as strategies go, Nunberg’s is all kinds of terrible. As others have described, you can be jailed for contempt for defying a grand jury subpoena, and subpoenaed witnesses in past investigations of presidents have faced such consequences.

Mr. Nunberg did raise an interesting point in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, asking whether he should have to spend “80 hours” looking for every email he had sent to other campaign advisers since November 2015, complaining that he had exchanged many emails per day with some of those people. Grand jury subpoenas to produce documents can be a pain. Below are some tips to try to reduce costs.


Continue Reading “I’ve Made a Huge Mistake,” or: Don’t Ignore Grand Jury Subpoenas and Other (Less Obvious) Tips

  • This month’s issue of the Federal Lawyer focuses on white collar crime, and includes this helpful article on subpoenas.
  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein visited Seattle this week for a press conference stressing DOJ’s continued commitment to catching the killer of a federal prosecutor tragically murdered here in 2001. One month to the day after

By now you’ve likely heard of, and perhaps read, the much-vaunted memorandum written by the Republican majority staffers on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and released to the public this past Friday. In short, the memo claims that evidence that HPSCI has uncovered raises serious questions about the legitimacy and legality of electronic surveillance of a U.S. citizen, Carter Page, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Some outlets (and members of Congress) have said that the memo uncovers a scandal worse than Watergate that totally discredits the DOJ investigation of Russian interference in U.S. elections and any connection to the Trump campaign being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Other commentators have called the memo “a dud.” In the run-up to its controversial release, many Democrats on HPSCI suggested that releasing the memo would expose “sources and methods” of intelligence collection—among the most protected of the U.S. government’s secrets—while Republicans on that same committee suggested that it proved foul play by government investigators and lawyers leading up to (and beyond) the 2016 presidential election.
Continue Reading Breaking Down the #Memo

You’re relieved. After a long investigation concerning some troubling conduct throughout the Pacific Northwest that may have led to the United States being defrauded by one of its contractors, you’ve brought this stressful period to a close. You’ve entered a Non-Prosecution Agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington. Perhaps the agreement even includes a civil settlement as well, resolving several parallel investigations.

But not two weeks later, an Assistant U.S. Attorney (“AUSA”) for the District of Oregon informs you that you’re the target of a criminal probe concerning the exact same conduct. How is this possible? As unfair as it seems, it has long been the position of federal agencies and DOJ components that other DOJ components are not bound by an agreement unless the agreement provides as much.
Continue Reading *Absolutely Startling*: Settlements With the Government

On January 13, 1981, the Supreme Court decided Upjohn Co. v. United States. Thirty-seven years later, it’s hard to think of a judicial decision that has had a more significant effect on internal investigations. The Court’s opinion made no mention of any particular warning procedure, instead focusing on the application of the attorney-client privilege to corporate clients. But it prompted the near-universal practice of lawyers who are conducting internal investigations advising corporate employees that they represent the company, rather than the employee, and that the company may waive the privilege at any time. There are countless articles highlighting the importance of providing the Upjohn warning while conducting internal investigations. I won’t rehash those points here. Instead I want to introduce a few fun factoids about the case itself, and the players involved in litigating it.
Continue Reading This Day in White Collar History: The Supreme Court Decides Upjohn

Hypothetical Bad News. You or your company has been served with a civil investigative demand requiring you to produce documents and answer questions from the government. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating you for suspected violations of the False Claims Act, or perhaps for participating in a price-fixing conspiracy in violation of the antitrust laws. The investigation could drag on for years and—if you’re found liable—you may be on the hook for millions of dollars.

Hypothetical Worse News. Government agents have also inspected your premises pursuant to a search warrant, and you learn that associates of yours have been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury. You are the target—or at least the subject—of a criminal investigation. For a company, a criminal conviction and associated fines could be devastating. For an individual, it could result in the loss of your liberty
Continue Reading A Quick Look at Parallel Proceedings

And no one expects a target letter. The Department of Justice defines a “target” of federal criminal investigation as “a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.” Federal prosecutors are encouraged to notify targets of their status and give them a chance to testify before the grand jury when such notification won’t compromise the integrity of the government’s investigation—such as by prompting the target to flee the jurisdiction or destroy evidence. When they’re given, those notifications are known as target letters.
Continue Reading Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition