Internal Investigations

When companies suspect misconduct by an employee, executive, or third party, an internal investigation may be necessary. The investigator should determine whether laws, regulations, or internal policies were violated, and if they were, the investigator may recommend corrective action.

At Ward and Berry PLLC, our internal investigations attorneys help clients determine get past rumors and to the facts, assess potential exposure, reduce cost and collateral damage, retain customers, restore confidence, avoid or limit government sanctions, resolve litigation, and achieve a favorable resolution in order for the business to return to normal operations.

Why Hire Ward and Berry PLLC

Our internal investigation attorneys help our clients effectively identify and address problems so that client personnel can get back to day-to-day operations. If an investigation reveals evidence of wrongdoing, we come up with the best remedial actions for your company and provide advice regarding potential disclosure to authorities.

Why You Need an Internal Investigations Attorney

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines make clear that fostering an organizational culture that effectively promotes ethical conduct and a commitment to compliance with the law, as well as maintaining standards of conduct and internal controls that reduce the likelihood of criminal conduct, is important for any company and a key factor in making corporate charging decisions. Hiring outside counsel to conduct investigations that are thorough and impartial, without even a perception of taint or bias, can be key avoiding corporate prosecution. Using outside counsel is particularly prudent when the alleged misconduct concerns a senior manager or executive of the company.

Many government contractors are required by the FAR to maintain an internal control system that includes “standards and procedures to facilitate timely discovery of improper conduct related to government contracts.” FAR 52.203-13(c)(2). The appropriate use of outside counsel to investigate serious allegations of wrongdoing within the company can be key to discovering, investigating, and reporting improper conduct. Failing to do so can result in the loss of contracts, corporate liability, and even debarment – the corporate ‘death penalty’ for a government contractor.

Deciding to Launch an Internal Investigation using Outside Counsel

Factors supporting a decision to launch an internal investigation using outside counsel include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The allegations at issue could result in corporate criminal, civil, or regulatory liability for violations of federal or state law.
  • The potential violation of law would have a material impact on the company.
  • The company does not have sufficient information to assess the nature and extent of any violation of the law.
  • In order to make decisions concerning the potential violation, the company needs to understand the law and facts surrounding the alleged conduct.
  • The company does not have the capability to quickly gather and analyze such facts through its internal resources.
  • Seniority of affected employees in the organization and what role they played in the alleged misconduct.
  • Size of the team needed and specific knowledge (e.g. forensic accountants).
  • Investigations experience, objectivity, analytical skills, understanding of corporate policies and procedures, interpersonal skills.
  • Protection against involvement or influence by senior executives to avoid the appearance of taint or a conflict of interest.

How to Conduct an Internal Investigation

Conducting an internal investigation can be an essential response to whistleblower allegations, shareholder demands, internal and external audits, subpoenas, negative media reporting, and inquiries by the government or civil litigants. If conducted properly, an internal investigation can prevent additional harm to the company, such as avoiding criminal prosecution, large civil fines, substantial damages, and negative publicity.

Although the timing and scope of an internal investigation is situation-dependent, internal investigations using outside counsel tend to include the following:

  • Assessment by the company’s board of directors or other governing authority as to the type of investigation warranted and who will conduct the investigation.
  • Board resolution or other written direction to retain outside counsel, scoping the inquiry, and providing any specific direction (e.g. form of reporting to the board).
  • Preliminary assessment by counsel of the scope of issues involved.
  • Notifications of personnel that an investigation is underway.
  • Document collection and review.
  • Witness interviews.
  • Internal investigation report to
    • a) Describe the facts surrounding the relevant events and potential violations of law or corporate policies.
    • b) Identify and recommend remedial or corrective actions, including disclosure obligations.
    • Communication of resolution of investigation to those individuals who “need to know” how the matter was resolved.

    Contact Us Today

    Contact our internal investigation attorneys in Washington D.C., or Tysons, Virginia. If you need help with an internal investigation it is critical to contact an experienced attorney at Ward & Berry PLLC as soon as possible. We are here to help you. Call us today at (202) 331-8160 or click here for our contact page.