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).