Corporate Civil Liability

Depending on the matter, data collection and management can be among the most daunting and logistically difficult tasks. Ensuring that the full relevant universe of data is being preserved and considered and that accurate recordkeeping is being performed is essential to managing large volumes of information and, in turn, facilitating fact-finding goals and risk assessment.
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The beginning stages of an investigation are often the most critical.  At the outset of any investigation, information is often limited and events are unfolding quickly.  As a result, it is important to develop a clear and adaptable plan that is appropriately scoped, identifies the right team and sets forth the steps that will be taken as part of the investigation.  Having a written plan in place is crucial to making sure that all relevant stakeholders are on the same page about what activities the investigation will include.  It also ensures that the investigation is managed effectively and is guided by a clear set of objectives. 
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Choices made at the outset of a crisis can play a critical role in a company’s ability to maintain future privilege claims. Recent cases highlight the risks of:

1. Sharing privileged communications with third-party consultants;
2. Conducting witness interviews through non-lawyers; and
3. Discussing the crisis with a former employee.
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A company faced with a crisis needs to act quickly to assess and determine the scope of any potential liability in order to guide its first response and frame the forthcoming investigation.  Issues overlooked in the early phases of an investigation could prove very costly down the road, limiting options or potentially subjecting a company to greater penalties.
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On September 27, 2018, in remarks delivered at the 5th Annual Global Investigations Review New York Live Event, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Matthew S. Miner reported on the accomplishments of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) over the course of the last twelve months.  Importantly, he also discussed recent changes to the DOJ’s policies on prosecution of business organizations and how those changes have been implemented.[1]  Miner highlighted the DOJ’s efforts to incentivize and provide guidance to companies to self-report, cooperate and remediate corporate misconduct while underscoring the importance of robust compliance programs to detect and prevent wrongdoing and to obtain full credit in resolving investigations by the DOJ.
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On September 14, 2018, a federal judge in the Southern District of New York certified as a class action a securities fraud suit against hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC (“Och-Ziff”) and two of its executives.[1]  Shortly after the decision certifying the class, the parties informed the court that they had reached an agreement in principle to settle the case, which had gone forward on the basis of allegations that Och-Ziff had failed to make adequate disclosures related to its knowledge of the investigation.
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On September 4, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced a $25.2 million settlement with French pharmaceutical company Sanofi (“Sanofi” or the “Company”) for violating the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) in connection with a scheme to bribe foreign officials to increase sales of Sanofi products.[2]  The Sanofi settlement encompasses conduct by three Sanofi subsidiaries organized in Kazakhstan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”).  The Sanofi settlement follows a recent enforcement action by U.S. authorities against another French company—Société Générale—for FCPA violations.[3]  In announcing the Sanofi resolution, the SEC signaled its intention to focus further on bribery risk in the pharmaceutical industry.
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On August 27, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced a $34.5 million settlement with investment management firm Legg Mason, Inc. (“Legg Mason” or the “Company”) for violating the internal controls provision of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) in connection with a scheme to bribe Libyan government officials to secure investments from Libyan state-owned financial institutions.[1]  The SEC settlement follows a June 2018 non-prosecution agreement between Legg Mason and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) regarding the same conduct.[2]  Under the non-prosecution agreement, Legg Mason agreed to pay $64.2 million.  The Legg Mason settlements reflect the increased focus of U.S. authorities on coordinating with other authorities in imposing penalties on a company, including not “piling on,” and the continued enforcement of the FCPA, while highlighting the potential risks under the FCPA of not having proper controls in place for assessing use of third party intermediaries.

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In a February post, we discussed in detail recent changes to the U.S. tax rules governing the deductibility of settlement payments and court-ordered damages payments.  The IRS has now released some limited guidance on this new law (IRS Notice 2018-23), and this post addresses what is in this guidance (the “Notice”).

To recap, under the new law: a settlement or court-ordered payment made to (or at the direction of) a government in relation to the violation of any law (or the investigation or inquiry by such government into the potential violation of any law) is not deductible for U.S. tax purposes unless the payment constitutes “restitution (or remediation of property) ” or “a payment for the purpose of coming into compliance with a law”.


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On Wednesday, the Supreme Court resolved a question that had created significant uncertainty concerning the scope of the anti-retaliation protections provided by Section 922 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”).

In Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected the expansive interpretation of Dodd-Frank’s anti-retaliatory