Businesses and individuals face a variety of challenges when the government launches an investigation concerning past conduct or financial transactions. The attorneys on Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C.’s Corporate Compliance & White Collar Defense Team are experienced in investigations and fact gathering and can assist clients with resolving a variety of situations that threaten the financial resources of a business entity or a person due to potential governmental civil or criminal sanctions.
We also counsel and advise clients to develop proactive compliance strategies with the goal of avoiding governmental investigations or enforcement.
To ensure the most effective representation possible, we regularly draw from the experience of team members who have served in governmental agencies or as federal prosecutors and defenders, and work closely with former special agents and analysts from federal law enforcement agencies. From compliance to court, our team’s comprehensive services are available to clients at every possible step in the process.
Corporate Investigation and Prosecution
Businesses are increasingly at risk of civil or criminal investigations by enforcement authorities such as the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Wisconsin Department of Justice, attorneys general, or state or local prosecutors, or may be the subject of an administrative investigation and/or enforcement proceedings initiated by a state or federal regulatory agency. It is becoming common for government enforcement authorities to investigate responsible corporate executives and other individuals in connection with these matters.
We provide representation to:
- Corporate entities facing charges of non-compliance with federal or state criminal or civil statutes or administrative regulations;
- Corporate entities or business executives and managers involving alleged violations of antitrust laws or claims of bribery, kickbacks, mail or wire fraud, embezzlement, or other acts of intentional wrongdoing; and
- Business executives, tax managers or other “responsible” individuals who are subjects of investigation or charged with alleged violations of federal or state tax laws, regulatory requirements or other legal breaches of duty.
Many times federal or state investigations become known to the business entity or individual when law enforcement, without notice, serves a subpoena, demands an interview with officers or employees, or executes a search warrant. Our team is experienced to provide immediate guidance in the event that a client’s first contact with a government inquiry is initiated by a surprise visit by law enforcement officers or other government agents.
Compliance with numerous and increasingly complicated state and federal regulations is a necessary component of business in today’s world. We work with clients to interpret applicable regulatory requirements and assist with the development of effective corporate compliance programs. We also offer significant experience and insights in the implementation of proactive compliance strategies that limit exposure to risk.
We routinely address regulatory matters involving the following governmental agencies or departments, among others:
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and state tax authorities;
- Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and state securities commissioner departments;
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC);
- Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General;
- Environmental Protection Agency and state Departments of Natural Resources;
- Occupational Safety & Health Administration;
- Department of Homeland Security-Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE);
- Department of Defense and other government and state contracting agencies;
- Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration;
- State insurance commissioners;
- State Office of Credit Unions;
- State and federal energy regulatory commissions; and
- State and federal professional regulatory and licensing agencies.
Businesses, Executives and Managers—In today’s complex regulatory environment, businesses, executives and managers face many challenges in conducting business domestically and internationally. Members of our Corporate Compliance & White Collar Defense Team have experience in successfully representing business entities, executives or managers in investigations or formal proceedings involving many different civil or criminal legal exposures, including:
- Anti-kickback or bribery claims
- False Claims Act
- Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
- Sarbanes-Oxley compliance
- Federal and state false advertising regulations
- Federal and state tax laws
- Suspicious activity reporting, currency transaction reporting, and other financial services laws and regulations
- SEC, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and state securities commissioner investigations or proceedings
- Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) claims
- Federal and state contracting and procurement regulations
- FDIC examinations including compliance with Section 19 of the FDIC Act
- Banking, financial institutions and consumer credit regulation compliance
- Federal housing program compliance
- Deceptive business practices claims
- Conspiracy claims
- Employment of undocumented aliens
- Theft/embezzlement in a business setting
- Racketeering claims
Licensed Professionals—Individuals holding professional licenses can be subject to investigation concerning their professional conduct and/or decision making by their respective licensing agencies. Most such licensing authorities follow their own unique procedures. Our lawyers have assisted many different licensed professionals with such challenges, including:
Accountants and Chief Financial Officers facing compliance with federal and state laws regarding the accurate reporting of financial results, and in investigations by the Wisconsin Department of Safety & Professional Services (DSPS, formerly Wisconsin Department of Regulation & Licensing) involving client complaints on tax services.
Attorneys facing investigation by the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR), and ultimately discipline by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, for alleged breaches of the rules of professional responsibility. Working through OLR, we have also assisted suspended lawyers seeking reinstatement of their licenses from the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Bank and Loan Officers facing investigations involving allegations of internal or external fraud, loan policy compliance or loan officer integrity.
Insurance Agents in regulatory investigations and proceedings initiated by the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance. Areas of representation have included suitability, sales practice violations and other compliance issues.
Medical, Mental Health and Dental Professionals in proceedings before the DSPS alleging ethical breaches of the standard of care, Drug Enforcement Administration compliance, HIPAA compliance, or charges of impaired practice. Sometimes disgruntled patients file a complaint with DSPS. In other instances, DSPS chooses to challenge the prescribing decisions made by physicians or dentists. We also represent professionals facing charges of Medicare and Medicaid non-compliance, anti-kickback and reimbursement issues involving state and federal agencies. We provide advice in restructuring medical practices to comply with federal laws that require physician’s exclusion from participation in federal health programs upon conviction of certain offenses.
Real Estate Professionals in proceedings before DSPS involving disclosure duties, avoidance of conflicts of interest, and other requirements applicable to those who assist others in buying and selling real estate.
Registered Financial Representatives in regulatory investigations and proceedings initiated by the SEC, FINRA and Wisconsin Division of Securities involving alleged violations of federal and state securities laws and regulations. Areas of representation have included the sale of unregistered securities and applicable exemptions, churning, suitability, recordkeeping, due diligence obligations, breach of fiduciary duty, selling away from the firm, margin violations and insider trading, among others.
Tax Controversy and Litigation—We represent and advise clients in connection with complex federal and state tax audits, reporting requirements, administrative appeals, judicial proceedings, criminal investigations, responses to administrative and criminal summonses, valuations and voluntary disclosures. We represent and advise clients on all types of audits, tax deficiencies and claims for refund, including income tax, franchise tax, payroll tax, excise tax, sales and use tax, property tax, and related penalties and interest. We represent and advise clients who are the subject of civil and criminal tax investigations by taxing authorities and other regulatory agencies, including those investigations involving currency structuring transactions, suspicious activity reports, unreported income, unfiled tax returns, and unreported foreign bank accounts and foreign assets.
We understand that tax controversies and litigation raise significant and complex issues, and require strategic decisions from the commencement of an audit or investigation through administrative proceedings, trial and appeal. Those issues and decisions often involve the attorney-client privilege; attorney work product doctrine; limited statutory privilege for federally authorized tax practitioners, when applicable; Fifth Amendment and other constitutional considerations.
Our clients include publicly traded and privately held corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies, tax exempt organizations, tribal governments and individuals. Our team includes attorneys who have previously served as attorneys with the Office of Chief Counsel of the IRS or as prosecutors for the DOJ, and/or are licensed as Certified Public Accountants.
Environmental Litigation and Regulatory Compliance—We have extensive experience defending companies and executives in enforcement actions brought by federal or state agencies alleging violations of environmental laws, and also defend against “citizens suits” brought by environmental interest groups and other third parties. We have also helped defend environmental permits from challenges by third parties and have litigated or negotiated clean-up cost allocations under Superfund and its state counterpart. In addition to our enforcement and litigation experience, we also assist regulated entities with environmental permitting and compliance. This includes coordinating the processing of numerous state and federal environmental permit applications for complex projects, such as large-scale energy developments, assisting clients with obtaining after-the-fact permits or site-specific regulatory determinations and providing guidance on compliance with environmental requirements.
Customs Compliance and Litigation—We represent and advise importers in connection with focused assessments conducted by the Customs and Border Protection Office of Strategic Trade Regulatory Audit Division, prior disclosures, criminal investigations, responses to requests for information, and voluntary disclosures. We routinely assist importers on classification, valuation, marking, free-trade agreements, anti-dumping and countervailing duties, and country of origin. We also create Customs Compliance Plans based on an in-depth analysis of the company's business operations.
Government Contract Compliance—Companies and individuals doing business with state and federal government agencies, whether as prime contractors or subcontractors, face a wide array of laws, rules and regulations governing their conduct, many of which carry significant criminal, civil or administrative penalties for noncompliance. We have attorneys with extensive public and private sector experience who regularly assist clients in identifying and complying with these many legal requirements and in responding to government allegations of fraud or regulatory violations arising out of the procurement process. We also represent clients in internal investigations and suspension and debarment proceedings and in defending against government claims and responding to subpoenas and audits, such as audits conducted by the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and other agencies.
Immigration Law Compliance—Our team advises and represents clients subject to immigration-related investigations and enforcement actions taken by ICE and other agencies. Our professionals provide in-depth advice to clients on the various laws and regulations of recruiting and hiring foreign talent and work with clients to establish best practices to remain in compliance with immigration laws, avoid penalties following a worksite inspections and audits, and help to maintain a stable workforce.
Services we provide to our clients in this area include the following:
- Evaluating current hiring policies and procedures;
- Overseeing internal I-9 audits;
- Training clients on proper hiring procedures and company policies regarding employment eligibility verification; and
- Protecting clients’ rights and business interests during ICE investigations and other government agency and enforcement actions.
Benefit Plan Fiduciary Compliance—Trustees and employee benefit managers operate in a highly regulated environment. We have substantial experience representing clients in matters involving EBSA investigations of:
- ERISA plans and plan fiduciaries in ESOP transactions;
- Defined benefit plan administration and investment of plan assets;
- Defined contribution plan administration and plan cost structure; and
- Health insurance premium payment by companies in financial distress.
Criminal Sentencing—Defendants in federal criminal proceedings who plead guilty or who are found guilty after trial undergo a detailed pre-sentence investigation by court officials, who develop a sentencing recommendation based on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Our professionals provide advocacy and assistance to such individuals from the start of the pre-sentence investigation through the court hearing to impose sentence. Detailed knowledge of the mechanics of the sentencing guidelines and the components of a pre-sentence report has helped individuals avoid inappropriately lengthy sanctions from the courts.
Criminal Restitution—Our team represents both the subjects of the proceedings or, alternatively, the victims of a crime. When a court imposes sentence after a conviction, the judge is directed by law to include requirements for the defendant to make restitution to the victims of his or her crime. We have negotiated restitution agreements on behalf of defendants in some cases, or represented the victim of crime in documenting and proving their restitution claims in other matters.