Government investigations are enormously challenging for both organizations and executives. Employees feel intense stress, customers and investors demand action, individuals fear personal disaster, and critics multiply. And senior executives and directors are often unfamiliar with the motivations, procedures, and basic rhythms of a grand jury or civil fraud investigation. When even small, short-term actions can have long-term unintended consequences, a legal team that understands these complexities can make all the difference.
Latham’s White Collar Defense & Investigations Practice includes 40 partners throughout the US and around the world. The team features regulatory practitioners, career defense advocates, and former high-ranking government lawyers from Republican and Democratic administrations, such as:
- Counsel to the President and Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General for the Department of Justice
- Two Assistant Attorneys General, who led the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) Criminal Division
- Associate Director of Enforcement of the Securities and Exchange Commission
- Head of Fraud Division of UK Serious Fraud Office
- Deputy Assistant Attorney General for DOJ’s Criminal Division
- Chief of the Securities & Commodities Fraud Task Force at the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York
- Two Directors of DOJ’s Enron Task Force
- More than 20 Assistant US Attorneys
Latham lawyers are experienced in every substantive area, from securities regulation to healthcare fraud to export controls to environmental enforcement. And the firm has a cadre of lawyers who regularly try defense-side cases, whose courtroom skills are current and tested.
While every investigation is different, Latham’s White Collar Defense & Investigations Practice organizes its approach around certain common principles, including:
1. Experience in both prosecution and defense fosters good judgment.
Latham practitioners understand what is going on because they have been there. The firm draws upon the experience of lawyers who have sat in both the government-enforcement chairs and the client-defense chairs.
2. Latham encourages and rewards teamwork.
The firm emphasizes the value of teams, combining specific regulatory knowledge with procedural experience. Latham & Watkins has best-of-class specialty practices and a system to ensure collaboration without silos.
3. A comprehensive strategy is critical.
A defense strategy should take into account every important threat and trade-off, balancing legal risk and long-term business objectives. Reacting to the crisis of the moment without regard to a company’s long-term plans can lead to poor results. A number of issues — including disclosure rules, employee retention, customer and investor relations, privilege preservation, debarment, obstruction, whistleblowers, derivative actions, and insurance coverage — can come into play in seemingly routine, daily decisions.
4. The more difficult the matter, the more important the firm’s client communication.
Allegations of misconduct can lead an organization to difficult moments of self-perception and second-guessing among colleagues. A key part of Latham’s job is to obtain buy-in on the strategy from the relevant decision makers at all levels and to communicate extensively as the engagement proceeds.
5. Latham strives for excellent relationships with government lawyers.
The justice system produces better results at less expense when adversaries cooperate on procedural issues without sacrificing substantive positions. Latham also recognizes that developing a strong working relationship with opponents generally helps the firm’s clients to achieve favorable results. But if the government is unreasonable, Latham is prepared to stand its ground and to seek relief from superiors or the court.
6. When a trial is better than the proposed deal, Latham is ready to try the case.
There are many ways to resolve matters, including by trial. While resolution is often an organization’s goal, the reality is that sometimes it is simply impossible to reach a reasonable resolution without litigation. Latham’s willingness to take cases to trial is a critical asset in settlement negotiations.
7. Latham lawyers recognize the importance of managing expenses.
Because government investigations have large elements of unpredictability, which is all the more reason to be diligent with budgets and resource planning. Investigations and compliance programs should not have lives of their own; rather, they should serve the greater context of a business’ mission and a business’ role as a corporate citizen. Here again, experience matters. Latham shares the responsibility to use client resources — including funds, as well as executive and employee time — appropriately and efficiently.