The Democrats have taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives and have promised an aggressive agenda of investigations and oversight.
Although their majority is slim, Democrats now chair committees, determine which investigations to pursue and hearings to hold, and wield subpoena power. Two themes will govern their actions: (1) “greed”—whether companies treated the public fairly; and, (2) potential corruption stemming from dealings with the Trump administration. They have already targeted pharmaceutical, oil and gas, chemical, financial services, technology, mining, and transportation companies. For-profit educational institutions, banks, and other lenders are not far behind.
Given the opposition to the Trump administration’s focus on reforming, revising, and reducing government regulations, it is almost inevitable that companies impacted by these efforts will get swept up into oversight investigations of the Trump administration’s dealings with the private sector if it is perceived they ‘benefited’ from regulatory changes. As a result, companies should proactively implement strategies that will prevent them from becoming collateral damage.
We Have the Team to Help
K&L Gates has a team that has handled over 100 congressional investigations covering just about every industry. We provide full spectrum, bipartisan congressional oversight and investigations services across our global platform. Our lawyers and government affairs professionals collectively have hundreds of years of congressional experience on both sides of the witness table, including Members of Congress and Committee Counsel who have chaired, organized, and run dozens of hearings, as well as lawyers with experience representing the White House and other Executive Branch agencies in major congressional investigations. Our team includes policy professionals and attorneys who have deep substantive expertise across numerous practice areas – government enforcement, white collar crime, financial services, energy, environment, health care, technology, procurement, banking, educational institutions, non-bank lenders, and others. We regularly advise attorneys with other firms who need assistance with congressional investigations and hearings.
We have consistently been recognized by Chambers USA, Legal 500, U.S. News-Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms,” and others as a leading policy practice, acknowledged for our extraordinary service, substantive knowledge of the issues, political acumen, industry understanding, and depth and breadth of our bipartisan relationships with government officials. Similarly, our white collar practice has consistently earned national recognition by publications such as “U.S. News-Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms.”
Congressional investigations do not operate in a vacuum.
They often involve concurrent investigations by other federal agencies, such as the Department of Justice, Government Accounting Office (GAO), and Inspector General, not to mention the SEC and others. In some cases, congressional investigations will result in parallel agency investigations and enforcement actions, especially if there is an allegation of lack of inaccuracies. In other cases, they are reactions to already known enforcement efforts by agencies. It is also not uncommon for a committee to request the GAO or the Inspector General to conduct the investigation in lieu of a formal congressional investigation.
Congressional investigations and hearings are always high-risk and often high-profile.
They must be taken very seriously. The reputational risk to both the company and individual executives is significant, including the danger that information from the investigation will be used in parallel criminal, regulatory enforcement, or private civil litigation. All too often, confusion and / or lack of preparation results in collateral accusations of lying or misleading Congress.
Congressional investigations and hearings are political events.
Although often billed as an effort to investigate and inform, they may also have the dual purpose of accusing and embarrassing those called, while also building support for a member’s political agenda. Congressional investigations are wholly different from agency investigations and enforcement actions. For example, one cannot always rely on assurances of “confidentiality.” It is essential to have skilled counsel help you navigate the complexities, intricacies, procedures, and personalities involved.
With an effective strategy, it is sometimes possible to avoid being the subject of an investigation entirely or to have the investigation not even start. Understanding the players involved, their priorities, and substance of the program can help achieve this result.
Representative ExperienceEnergy and Natural Resources
We have been involved in over 100 investigations involving every major committee and subcommittee across nearly every industry including:
Healthcare, Pharmaceutical, and Food
- Represented various entities involved in significant oil spills and other environmental disasters in connection with multiple House and Senate investigations relating to those matters, including the Exxon Valdez, North Cape (Rhode Island), Cosco Busan, Ashland oil spill, and the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which included the House Committees on Energy and Commerce and the Judiciary, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and the National Academy of Sciences.
- Represented NGO in connection with potential Senate Environment and Public Works Committee investigation of NGO activities.
- Advised client with respect to Inspector General investigation in Fishery Management Council driven by congressional request.
Financial Services, Banking, Investment Management, and Lending
- Represented pharmaceutical interests in connection with House Energy and Commerce Committee inquiry into opioid-related activity.
- Represented a financial services organization before the House Financial Services Committee investigating financial irregularities at an investment fund.
- Represented individual corporate representative in investigations by Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee of abusive offshore tax shelters.
- Represented client before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations with respect to accounting for off-balance sheet derivatives.
- Represented financial services and investment banking companies before House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigation and Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee probing Enron accounting irregularities and financial collapse.
- Represented multinational entertainment company in connection with House Energy & Commerce Committee and House Oversight & Government Reform Committee investigation into steroid use. Successfully dissuaded committee from holding a hearing at which client would have to testify.
- Represented a major technology company before the Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee in connection with tax implications of offshore financial accounts.
- Represented client before GAO in connection with joint senate and house investigation into whether action by Federal Communications Commission adverse to client’s interest violated federal law.
Government Contracts & Procurement Policy
- Represented client in implementation of proactive strategy to obviate the need for congressional investigation or hearings relating to high-profile air incident.
Lobbying & Political Activity
- Represented corporate officer in connection with investigation into alleged irregularities relating to a contract issued by House of Representatives.
- Represented individual in parallel Department of Justice and Senate investigation of lobbying activities.