As originally published on February 5, 2016 in Law360.
Let’s say you’re the general counsel for a manufacturing company that builds armored transport vehicles for sale to the U.S. military. One of your vehicles recently exploded in use, injuring several military personnel. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the cause of the explosion and believes that your company skipped over certain required steps in product safety testing as part of an effort to meet contractual sales deadlines, and that members of the company’s senior management team may be criminally responsible because they knew about the corner-cutting and condoned it.
You must develop a plan to investigate the potential causes for the explosion, including a thorough review of the company’s product safety testing procedures. Should you task your internal risk management team with learning all the facts? Should you hire outside counsel to conduct the investigation? What information developed in the investigation will you recommend disclosing to the DOJ? What if critical information discovered in the investigation is protected by the attorney-client privilege? Will you recommend withholding the information or waiving the privilege as part of your cooperation with the government?
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