For five consecutive years, Steptoe has been named, by Global Investigations Review, in the world’s top 30 best firms for international investigations. Steptoe has earned a reputation as a go-to firm for boards, audit and special committees, and companies, as well as individuals, in need of outside counsel to handle government investigations, sensitive internal investigations, and civil and criminal enforcement actions. Our status as a firm that top corporations turn to in times of trouble is illustrated by our representation of companies including Huawei in defending allegations of trade secret theft and fraud violations and Volkswagen in the criminal case and related matters arising from the diesel emissions controversy, and Linde in an FCPA matter that resulted in one of the first declinations with disgorgement in an M&A case.
Our global multidisciplinary team has decades of experience helping clients navigate the complexities and mitigate the risks associated with internal and government investigations and enforcement actions. Our broad experience means that we are equipped to deal not only with the legal issues, but also the range of commercial, personal and reputational pressures that may arise. We are particularly skilled in handling government investigations – including in cross-border matters involving enforcement authorities of multiple countries and international financial institutions – that involve potential criminal exposure and debilitating sanctions, including matters involving alleged business fraud, regulatory offenses, and public corruption, while seeking to ensure the continued operation of the business with the minimal impact. We have handled investigations in nearly 100 countries and have extensive experience in emerging markets, including Brazil and other Latin American countries, China, India, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa, the former Soviet Republics and Russia.
Nearly 40 of the firm’s investigations lawyers have prior experience working in government enforcement. Members of our team include former senior-level enforcement and policy officials from the key law enforcement and regulatory agencies, as well as former in-house counsel. Our judgment and deep law enforcement and government experience gives us unique credibility and effectiveness in dealing with law enforcement and other government agencies, as does our ability to litigate if need be. Our experience of working hand-in-glove with various clients including as former in-house counsel gives us a unique understanding of how businesses operate and how to mitigate the effects of an investigation or enforcement action on businesses and individuals, including parallel or follow-on civil litigation. We have secured many declinations for our clients, and recognize that in most cases, an investigation or action that nobody knows about is the best kind.
We regularly represent public and private companies in investigations and proceedings brought by the US Department of Justice (DOJ), US Attorney’s Offices, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Securities & Enforcement Commission (SEC), the Commodities & Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), other financial regulatory and self-regulatory agencies, US state attorneys general, congressional committees, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and other sanctions and export control enforcement authorities, and other US and non-US agencies and regulators. Outside the US, our attorneys also regularly represent clients in investigations involving the UK Financial Conduct Authority, the Serious Fraud Office, the National Crime Agency, Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, and the Financial Reporting Council as well as the range of law enforcement agencies in Europe, including the Financial Services & Markets Authority. We also regularly collaborate with trusted local counsel in other jurisdictions around the world to devise effective strategies to navigate the complexities of multi-jurisdictional investigation and enforcement matters. We act as independent counsel in internal, Audit Committee, and Special Litigation Committee investigations initiated at the Board level.
At Steptoe, we don’t do “runaway” investigations, and are sensitive to the costs, disruptions and collateral consequences that such investigations may cause. Our team excels in conducting complex, multi-jurisdictional investigations while maintaining our focus on the key issues under review. Additionally, with offices in strategic locations around the globe and with relationships with trusted firms in farther-flung jurisdictions, we are able to effectively manage local law issues when conducting investigations that require us to collect and review documents overseas, manage any local reporting, interview witnesses around the world, and attend to any local employment issues.
We also act as defense counsel for individuals in criminal and civil litigation involving alleged offenses, including trials against the DOJ, the UK SFO, and various other law enforcement agencies. We have represented executives in connection with grand jury appearances and interviews with prosecutors and investigative agents, and when necessary through indictment and trial to verdict (including sentencing and extradition). Throughout this process, we work with our clients to help them avoid or limit exposure, and negotiate with government agencies to prevent an indictment or seek a more favorable civil disposition.
Although our investigations/criminal practice is experienced in virtually every enforcement area, our main areas of focus include:
- Anti-Bribery/Anti-Corruption and Multilateral Development Bank Matters. Over the years, Steptoe has assisted many companies – US and foreign—and individuals in investigations and enforcement actions arising under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, UK Bribery Act, and other anti-corruption laws. We have successfully represented numerous companies in investigations before the DOJ and the SEC, the UK SFO, and other authorities, with most matters having been terminated without charges. Steptoe also has a market-leading practice in investigations and sanctions proceedings involving allegations of corruption, fraud, collusion, and other misconduct in projects financed by the World Bank and other multilateral development banks.
- Economic Sanctions, Export Controls, Money Laundering, and Counter-Terrorist Financing. Steptoe attorneys have extensive experience handling US economic sanctions, export control, and other international regulatory and financial crime investigations and enforcement proceedings, including routine (and more ominous) information requests, pre-penalty contacts, negotiated settlements, administrative proceedings arising from penalty actions, and related criminal defense.
- Securities/Financial Services Enforcement. Steptoe advises corporate and individual clients in connection with securities and financial services enforcement matters, related criminal prosecutions, and the many collateral risks they pose. By integrating the judgments of our litigators, including former SEC enforcement officials and DOJ prosecutors, with those of our corporate and regulatory counselors, we regularly help clients minimize or avoid undue regulatory scrutiny, litigation, and other disputes and, when necessary, develop the best and most protective record if an investigation or action follows.
- Other White-Collar Defense. Steptoe’s white-collar defense practice is among the most well-respected and preeminent in the United States. Our lawyers have built a reputation defending some of the highest profile senior executives, public officials, and corporations in complex white-collar criminal litigation, corporate investigations, and related administrative enforcement, extradition and civil litigation matters. Apart from the areas noted above, we have experience in all areas of white-collar criminal enforcement, including accounting fraud, domestic corruption, healthcare fraud, FDA violations, antitrust, tax, false claims, environmental, perjury and false statements, and obstruction. We regularly take tough criminal cases to court and win.