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As Seen On:

The Role of a Company’s General Counsel in DC Financial Crimes

The role of a company’s general counsel for DC financial crimes includes protecting you against allegations of financial misconduct. Everyone is entitled to a defense attorney when the state or government produces charges against you. To better your odds of a favorable courtroom outcome or to openly rebuke these allegations, speak to an attorney who could help.

Differing Interests Between CEOs and a Company

The point at which the legal interests of a company may diverge from the CEO depends on the specific facts of the case. One factor is knowledge that the CEO allegedly had practices that might be deemed illegal or are being investigated by law enforcement. If the focus of the investigation takes a turn, the CEO may become a separate target of the investigations which necessitates that counsel be retained. One of the roles of a company’s general counsel for DC financial crimes is to determine if the interests of the CEO of a company and the company itself are in conflict.

When there is divergence, the CEO may already have their own counsel. There may be a joint defense agreement where the company lawyers and lawyers for the CEO share information. They are able to speak freely with each other, but as soon as the interests diverge, the joint defense agreement ends and the lawyers understand that. At the conclusion of the joint defense agreement, there is less communication and sharing of resources. This is primarily because the CEO does not have an attorney-client privilege with the general counsel. The CEO usually has personal counsel for those issues.

Revealing Information to General Counsels

The general counsel works for the company. If the CEO reveals criminal activity that relates to the company, the general counsel must report that to the board of directors. The situation does not often occur because the CEO and the general counsel are aware of the nature of their relationship. Everyone knows where the privilege lies and that type of admission does not usually occur.

If the general counsel becomes aware of activity that could create criminal liability for the company, they report that information to the company’s board of directors. The disclosure of a financial crime could take place at a board meeting, in the form of a written report, or it might even be an email or memo.

The Company’s Attorney and Employes

The general counsel is part of management and does not represent the employees of the company. The general counsel may, in limited situations, provide some assistance to employees but generally does not provide legal advice to employees of the company.

Investigations for Employed Workers

When an employee is under investigation for a financial crime, they should not speak to anyone about the matter except their own lawyer with whom they have attorney-client privilege. The individual does not have privilege with the general counsel, so they should not speak to them, and they should not speak to an investigating agency without the presence of their lawyer.

Unprotected Disclosures of Information

When an employee of the company discloses information to the general counsel, that information is probably not protected by attorney-client privilege. When there is an internal investigation, the general counsel and the board of directors may contract an outside firm to do an internal investigation of the company. The outside law firm gives an Upjohn warning to an employee before they make a statement. This is similar to a Miranda warning but is for an internal investigation. The Upjohn warning informs the employee that in-house or outside counsel represents only the company and not the employee.

It is made clear that the employees do not have privilege and when they do make statements, they make them with the knowledge that, if they do not, they could be fired. That is usually an incentive to make statements and a disincentive from remaining silent. Employees do not have privilege in that situation contrary to what they might believe.

Learn More about the Role of a Company’s General Counsel for DC Financial Crimes

Within the role of a company’s general counsel in DC for financial crimes, reporting to the board of directors and protecting the company is perhaps most critical. These attorneys are invested in keeping the company running, and if this is a common goal, these attorneys could work with you to defend against allegations of financial misconduct. To start building a defense against federal charges, reach out to an attorney today.


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