At Compliance Mitigation, our team members served time alongside thousands of people that suffered the pains of a government investigation; we’ve all gone through investigations ourselves. We can reflect on the red flags we missed along the way. Had we understood the implications of those warnings, we could have taken precautions to minimize exposure.
For example, investigators approached the former CEO and Chairman of a Nasdaq 100 company for questioning. When the CEO called his general counsel, the lawyer told him that it would be fine to speak with the investigators alone, as the CEO didn’t have anything to hide. Later, through legal proceedings, the CEO learned that investigators had carved out a special deal for the general counsel; the lawyer served up the CEO as “a bigger fish” to satisfy the government’s lust for a headline-grabbing investigation and prosecution.
The markets use many metrics to assess the performance of a CEO. Markets may look at revenue growth, profit growth, and market share. Investigative teams, though, work by an entirely different set of metrics. They advance their careers by bringing people and businesses down. Such motivations influence them to go after cases that generate headlines. Later, investigators and government attorneys rely upon such results as evidence of their value when advancing their career in government or as they transition to the private sector.
Long before an indictment comes down, investigators leave clues. It’s crucial for all parties to keep their eyes wide open. Neither business leaders nor team members should minimize the complexities of a government investigation, including enormous levels of personal stress. The potential for exposure to criminal charges, injunctions, and enormous expenses can lead to total devastation for those that do not have a plan.