- Euro-criminals love bitcoin
- Speaking of love, Valentine’s Day idea for next year: pick her up in a rented helicopter and pretend you’re a general on a classified mission
- Meanwhile, after a real general was placed in confinement for 21 days, the Gitmo military judge on the USS Cole may now make the Secretary of Defense testify
- ICE made the news this week – a special agent was sentenced to 36 months in prison for accepting bribes from a fugitive drug lord
- And here in Seattle, ICE’s top lawyer was charged with stealing immigrants’ identities, coming on the heels of the Seattle ICE agent who pulled a gun on her supervisor after she was placed on a performance improvement plan
- Also here in Seattle, Amazon and the EPA reached a $1.2 million settlement over online sales of illegal pesticides
- Two former Greek prime ministers and eight other former ministers implicated in corruption investigation involving Novartis
- Russian hackers known as “Fancy Bear” apparently tricked government contract workers into exposing their email to theft
- Even in the midst of a market correction, an announcement that the DOJ has closed an investigation will send a stock up
- Rabobank’s California subsidiary pled guilty to conspiracy in an attempt to conceal anti-money laundering deficiencies from the Treasury Department
- Porn actor’s assertion that extortion really isn’t extortion fell flat at the Ninth Circuit
- Here in Washington, airlines have brought suit challenging the constitutionality of the new paid sick leave law as it applies to pilots
- That’s it for the week — it’s not easy being a thought leader . . .
- Some former DOJ attorneys start blogs; others use more innovative methods to develop business: Ex-Justice Dept. lawyer offered to sell secret U.S. whistleblower lawsuits to targets of the complaints
- Not to be outdone by any attorney: Six CPAs Accused of Rigging Audit Inspections
- Lobbying groups apparently want to join the party too: GAO Will Probe ‘Fake Comments’ to Regulatory Agencies
- A look behind the assistant to Goldman Sachs’ president, who stole $1.2 million in wine and took a trip around the world: Looking for the Real ‘Nicolas De-Meyer,’ Mysterious Goldman Sachs Wine Thief
- In local news, be sure to get a license before you attempt to ship weapons to Kurdish fighters in Iraq
- Also, beware of an investment group that claims the United Nations “is just a front for what we want to do”
- Finally, ‘Dirty Money’ on Netflix should be good
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.
To provide a more concrete example, there have been dozens of administrative and criminal proceedings over the last few years that grew out of a massive public corruption scandal involving the bribing of dozens of Navy officials in exchange for participating in or turning a blind eye to baseless bills from an overseas defense contractor. Many participants have been criminally prosecuted, but the criminal investigation (which remains ongoing) has also coincided with administrative enforcement actions that resulted in the debarment of numerous contractors, permanently preventing them from doing business with the government.
More and more, government officials and agencies bring to bear all of the enforcement tools—civil, criminal, and administrative—in parallel investigations and proceedings to put a stop to unlawful conduct. If you’re the target of parallel investigations, you and your lawyer will need to be mindful about the different discovery tools available to the government, the risks of compromising your rights in one investigation through your response to another, and the need for a global settlement with the government.
All of that could fill a treatise, so I won’t try to cover it here. Instead, I’ll cover:
- A brief overview of the DOJ’s approach to parallel investigations and proceedings (they’re favored).
- Your chances of halting either a civil or administrative proceeding pending resolution of the criminal case (spoiler alert: not great).
- The importance of thinking strategically at every stage of your response—not just about the individual request or process you’re responding to—but also about how it affects the other investigations (it’s really important).
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.
We want our clients to avoid getting those target letters. That starts with great compliance programs and robust internal controls to avoid fraud and other malfeasance. It also takes rigorous and sensitive internal investigations to determine whether there’s a problem. If the government begins its own investigation, potential white collar defendants need careful counsel to avoid enforcement action, which can take the form of civil, criminal, and administrative proceedings, and to achieve the best possible outcome in any enforcement action that does ensue.
Target Letter—published by our Investigations, Compliance & White Collar Team—is a resource for those who are in need of practical information and valuable insights covering a broad range of government investigations and state and federal criminal and civil proceedings. We’ll focus particularly on gathering news and providing analysis of white collar issues related to healthcare, government contracting, technology, money laundering, corruption, and fraud and enforcement developments in the Pacific Northwest. Because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition . . . .