A Internal Investigation Can Prevent Criminal Liability
If you are a federal government contractor and currently doing business with the federal government, you more than likely have heard or read about companies or their executives being investigated or indicted for procurement fraud against the government, false claims or in any many cases small businesses charged with violating the limitations on subcontracting regulations.
There is no doubt that federal law enforcement agencies such as the SBA IG and Department of Justice (DOJ) have increased the oversight and scrutiny over small businesses and larger DOD contractors. Yet, many of them are not planning ahead or conducting corporate internal investigations or prevent procurement fraud and to endure compliance with the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR).
What is an Investigation in the Workplace?
This information is focused on small businesses and larger federal government contractors seeking to ensure compliance. A viable investigation in the workplace will either focus on the existing problem to make sure that business practices measure up to a specific regulation that covers the potential problem. In the alternative, the investigation can also focus on preventing a serious problem or lack of compliance or to pinpoint potential wrongdoing.
- An investigation should not always occur after there is a problem
- Most successful federal contractors conduct inspections and revamp internal policies and controls on a set schedule.
How to Conduct an Internal Investigation
The first step in conducting a corporate internal investigation for a government contractor is to identify what goal you are trying to accomplish. There are many contract clauses that you must be aware of such as mandatory disclosure, contractor code of ethics, limitations on subcontracting and so on. A thorough internal investigation would focus on these things.
- Limitations on subcontracting
- Mandatory disclosure
- Developing a contractor ethics program
- Complying with subcontractor oversight
- Making sure that contract materials meet specifications
- Compliance with SBA affiliation guidelines
- Making sure that joint ventures and teaming agreements are compliance
When looking at how to conduct an internal investigation, you must also tailor the process to suit your specific company operations. If you become subject to a government contract investigation, you may be asked questions about how your specific company works through the day-to-day issues. Failure to produce or show that you have a viable plan in place can hurt the company in the long run.
Is the Attorney Client Privilege Applicable to Corporate Internal Investigations?
This question often comes up. The best approach is to first understand who is the client. Normally, the company will be the client. This allows for more openness in communication.
The attorney client privilege during a corporate internal investigation be help the company to prevent further violations, adopt better business practices that minimize risk, and certainly allowing corporate management full access to information in order to make informed decisions.
All contractors should focus on minimizing business disruption, improving public relations and improving the government’s perception of you as a contractor. The most important aspect of developing internal investigations is to avoid being charged with a criminal liability or potential civil liability or fines.
When you conduct an inspection or an internal investigation, you should conduct it as though there were an actual government investigation taking place.
- Taking proactive measures will almost always minimize liability in the long run
- You always to want to make sure that if there is an ongoing federal investigation that your internal investigation does not tamper with witnesses or evidence.
Government Contract Investigations on the Rise
Internal corporate investigations allow you to conduct a self-assessment of managers, supervisors, and your employees to comply with state and federal laws in addition to your internal policies and controls.
When you conduct internal corporate investigations, you should be looking to gather facts so if the Department of Justice (DOJ), Security Exchange Commission (SEC) or another agency wants to investigate you to conduct witness interviews, then investigator can make a fair determination about what happened and whether a violation occurred.
OIG is Active in Corporate Investigations: In its January 6, 2014 Semiannual Report to Congress, the office of Inspector General (OIG) stated that it “completed many more important audits and reviews covering many Department operations and programs.”
For corporations involved in federal government contracts, this is especially true in suspension and debarment cases. For medium-sized or large companies, you should be especially cognizant of allegations of employment discrimination, Service Disabled Veteran requirements (SDVOSB) or other employment law concerns. These are also situations where you might want to conduct internal corporate investigations.
Trends are showing that corporations are now left to conduct their own internal business corporate investigations. State and Federal Government agencies are increasing corporate investigations nationwide. For example according to a Washington Post article, the U.S. government is stepping up investigations of corporations suspected of paying bribes overseas. This is especially true for the Department of Justice and the Security Exchange Commission.
Conduct Routine Internal Corporate Investigations
Both small businesses and large corporations simply have to implement internal controls and policies, and conduct internal corporate investigations on a routine basis. They should not wait until the DOJ or SEC comes knocking on their doors.
As the U.S. government steps up investigations of companies suspected of paying bribes overseas, law enforcement officials are leaving much of the detective work to the very corporations under suspicion.
DOJ Conducting Contractor Investigations
The following show clear examples of how the federal government is cracking down on corporations and launching nationwide corporate investigations.
Correctional Institution Employee Sentenced on Bribery Related Offense, December 20, 2013
Seminole, Oklahoma Resident Sentenced for Committing Federal Program Theft, December 19, 2013
Former FBI Special Agent Pleads Guilty to Illegal Cash Deposits, December 17, 2013
Two Florida Residents Sentenced on Bribery Charges, November 25, 2013
Get Professional Help With Internal Corporate Internal Investigations
If you are a medium-sized company, small business or a large federal government contractor, you want to seriously consider developing periodic corporate internal investigations or respond to a government investigation. Contact our federal investigation lawyers for legal advice at 1-866-601-5518. Free Initial Consultation.