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Investigations

When issues arise of potentially dishonest conduct on the part of employees of a business, that business needs to be aware that not only might it have claims against the employee in question, but it may also be the subject of claims by third parties and by regulators.

There has in recent years been a particular emphasis by regulators on bribery and corruption. Thus, if employees have been engaged in obtaining contracts through bribery, or have themselves received bribes, the business may be exposed to action by regulators, whether in England or in other jurisdictions, particularly the US. Very large fines can be imposed by regulators, so it is important that the right approach is adopted from a very early stage.

The strategy to be adopted in those circumstances may include:

  • Ensuring a thorough investigation is undertaken in respect of available data and witnesses, in all of the relevant jurisdictions as often such matters can involve multiple jurisdictions. The investigation needs to be conducted in accordance with local laws, especially regarding data protection and employment law.

  • It may be appropriate to ensure the business is able to claim legal professional privilege in respect of material produced by the investigation, and/or that evidence is also potentially admissible in any criminal proceedings against individual wrongdoers, should that be required.

  • Invoking appropriate disciplinary procedures against relevant employees.

  • Taking steps to recover losses from employees and third parties, which may involve putting together evidence from the investigation as to wrongdoing, and possibly in relation to assets of potential defendants.

  • Examining existing safeguards and putting in place further safeguards to avoid future repetition of the wrongdoing in question.

  • Disclosing the position to the regulators, including what the business is doing about the issue and intends to do in the future, and to negotiate as to the sanctions that may be imposed on the business.

PCB act for businesses faced with having to investigate the wrongdoing of directors/employees for the purposes of bringing and defending civil claims, taking other steps against those directors/employees and addressing regulatory concerns. We will work together with local lawyers and other professionals, including those who have worked for the relevant regulators and are well-placed to negotiate the best outcome for the client, to develop and implement the best strategy for the client.

We also act for individual directors/employees who may be the subject of investigation, who may need independent legal advice and ultimately who may be faced with civil, regulatory and criminal proceedings.

Examples of our work include:

  • Acting for a multi-national company faced with allegations of bribery and corruption against a senior executive director. We undertook an investigation and liaised with the relevant prosecuting authorities.

  • Investigations into corrupt practices in respect of dealings between two multi-national companies, in order to make appropriate civil claims, defend prosecutions and address regulatory issues.

  • Acting for a property company which was the subject of a high profile dawn raid by the Serious Fraud Office in conjunction with criminal investigations being carried out elsewhere in Europe.

  • Negotiations with governments in relation to the return of stolen assets, without any prosecution of our client.

  • Acting for a senior director of a professional services company faced with an investigation into alleged wrongdoing, and obtaining a satisfactory settlement on his behalf.

  • Acting for property brokers who were alleged to have misled investors into buying properties in Eastern Europe. They were the subject of a criminal investigation, press scrutiny and restraint orders. Through our efforts the investigation was dropped and the restraint orders discharged.

  • Acting for a businessman who avoided jail in relation to fraud proceedings brought by the Italian criminal authorities out of the collapse of a large Italian catering company that was riddled with fraud.

  • Acting for a defendant who was alleged to have been involved in a procurement fraud involving the United Nations and the provision of medicine and equipment to Africa. There were also parallel investigations in Europe involving co-defendants. PCB dealt with the disclosure of evidence by the authorities to protect privileged material.

  • Acting for an employee facing high profile criminal and restraint proceedings. We negotiated the terms by which the client was able to preserve the value of her assets, and represented her in her interviews with her employer and the police.

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