Investigation and Response

What to Do When the Government Comes Knocking

One of the most important roles of a compliance officer is to protect the company. There may be no better opportunity to do that than when a government representative starts asking questions—whether a law enforcement officer shows up unannounced, a government agency sends a subpoena, or regulatory staffer emails a couple questions. The stakes can be high when the government comes calling; companies can face large monetary damages and fines, exclusion from government contracting and participation in government programs, reputational and brand damage, and jail time for company employees.

It is critical that compliance professionals understand the ways that government representatives may seek information from companies, that they prepare in advance, and that they are actively involved in responding to government inquiries. Compliance officers are a key part of the response team, along with in-house lawyers and outside counsel. The compliance office is likely to be the first call when employees have questions about dealing with the government or when there is a regulatory request. Compliance officers know the company, think about risks and how to protect the company every day, and know how to help position the company to look good before regulators. This article will help compliance professionals understand the types of government requests that can arise and will help them develop a plan in advance to handle those requests. Arming themselves with this information may be one of the best ways that compliance officers can be prepared to help the company when the government comes knocking.

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