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Too many stakeholders in the kitchen

Michael Carter ( is a Senior Director with Alvarez & Marsal Disputes and Investigations in Washington, D.C., and Lex Urban ( is a Special Counsel for Cadwalader’s White Collar Group in Washington, D.C.

High-stakes corporate investigations into bribery, corruption, and other misconduct—whether focused on internal actors or third-party business partners—are often highly complex, require a broad range of investigative and functional expertise, and can involve multiple work streams running in parallel under crushing deadlines. Various internal and external teams are likely to play primary or supporting roles, and these roles may change over time, depending on a variety of factors, including in-process findings and the emergence of government regulators or law enforcement. When such a critical matter arises, the first impulse is often to throw resources at it and let every conceivable stakeholder play some role. However, this well-intentioned approach can often lead to a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation, undercutting the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire investigative process.

As a result, identifying those roles and responsibilities, managing resources and timelines, and remaining nimble in the face of change can be critical to ensuring that a “bet the company” matter does not devolve into an all-out catastrophe. In fact, the Department of Justice has specifically addressed “Properly Scoped Investigations by Qualified Personnel” and “Investigative Respons[iveness]” in its most recent Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs guidance in April 2019,[1] which considers the manner and structure in which investigations are handled.

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