White collar defense, by Cahill Gordon & Reindel

The life of an attorney in white collar defense

CahillLegal trends and business climate 

In Cahill’s white collar practice, we advise public companies, boards, committees, and executives of publicly held companies in corporate governance matters, corporate and governmental investigations and crisis management.

Cahill lawyers are called upon to assist clients with particularly sensitive matters involving corporate governance and ethical malfeasance, including accounting fraud and earnings management, market manipulation, disclosure violations, insider trading and fraud in connection with mortgages, conflicts of interest, director and management responsibilities and business practices. The firm is widely regarded for its ability to develop remedial and compliance plans that appropriately address potential liabilities and provide appropriate responses to governmental and regulatory inquiries.

Cahill has managed some of the most significant investigations arising from existing and emerging regulation in the white collar arena, including for some of the largest public companies and banks with transnational operations as well as the largest credit rating agency and important government organizations. Our lawyers have extensive experience conducting multinational investigations involving alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations, commercial anti-bribery laws and the Bank Secrecy Act.

Cahill lawyers represent parties in proceedings before Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Justice, United States Attorneys' Offices, Department of the Treasury, Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Inspector General, and State Attorneys General as well as the New York Stock Exchange, FINRA and other prosecutorial and regulatory agencies.

What type of clients does this practice area serve? 

Cahill devotes a substantial focus to representation of public companies and their boards of directors and committees in transnational business operations. We frequently represent audit committees responsible for the global regulatory oversight of their organization. We also maintain a very active practice representing board members and senior executives in compliance and enforcement matters.

Our clients include or have recently included some of the world’s largest banks (HSBC, Credit Suisse and others), some of the world’s largest public companies and their boards (Wal-Mart Stores, Qualcomm, Diageo, Teva Pharmaceuticals), and the largest largest credit rating agency (Standard & Poor’s), as well as the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Freddie Mac, to name a few. These clients turn to us to handle high profile matters that are complex and international in scope. The matters we have handled for HSBC and Credit Suisse are, for example, among the most significant regulatory matters in the long histories of those banks. Teams of Cahill litigators have also assisted a Cahill partner appointed as a Monitor to oversee various operations at Toyota and Biomet.  

Is there much of an international element? 

Yes. For example, Cahill is overseeing a global internal investigation for the Audit Committee of Wal-Mart Stores, and the company’s response to DOJ and SEC investigations, as well as global compliance evaluations and program modifications arising out of its operations at subsidiaries around the world. We represented the Audit Committee of London-based Diageo plc in connection with possible FCPA violations arising from the company’s business dealings in South Korea, Thailand and India. We represented the Audit Committee of Pride International in one of the largest FCPA investigations ever, spanning Venezuela, India, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, the Republic of the Congo and Libya.

What are some of the drivers of growth for this practice area? 

We deal in complex and expansive regulatory schemes affecting many different industries, coupled with enforcement by government agencies worldwide that has recently become significantly more aggressive.

What might a junior associate in this practice area expect to do day-to-day? 

A junior associate might expect foreign travel and a wide range of responsibilities that make up the typical internal investigation assignment, including:

  • Compiling evidence
  • Researching
  • Drafting reports
  • Supporting more senior associates in preparing and conducting interviews of witnesses

What experience, qualifications and personal qualities are needed to succeed in this practice area? 

Critical thinking skills and healthy skepticism, especially relating to witness testimony, will serve a junior lawyer well in this practice area. Those who have an ability to digest large volumes of evidence and documentary materials and have the perspective to pull it all together into a cohesive whole as it relates to the situation will excel. Successful lawyers practicing white collar investigations and defense have the ability to compare, contrast and find the truth in conflicting evidence. 

What are the pros and cons of being a lawyer in this practice area? 

Lawyers practicing in this area are exposed to a wide range of industries, disciplines and specialties, providing an intellectual dimension that keeps things interesting. One must have an ability to understand with sufficient depth various types of business operations to be an effective investigator and/or advocate. Frequent travel and the ability to meet and work with a variety of people from all over the world is very rewarding.

Practicing in white collar investigations and defense can allow lawyers to get from behind their desks and interact with clients and witnesses. Young lawyers in this area can achieve broad perspectives, learning about a wide variety of issues and controversies while they progress as attorneys. In one moment, a white collar defense attorney could be learning the secrets of the retail industry, and in the next, deep in conversation about preparing an oil rig for its next expedition. It’s an intellectually stimulating area in which to practice.