When it comes to government investigations, white-collar litigation, and related enforcement, things can be difficult to navigate. That is why, if you happen to be involved in a high-risk industry, it pays to have seasoned counsel ready to assist. In this explainer, successful lawyer Samuel Dewey details some of the common types of white-collar crime and what to look for in an attorney to defend these cases.
In the United States today, businesses face significant white-collar scrutiny thanks to a complex legal and regulatory landscape. This high level of scrutiny can either come in the form of investigation which may lead to criminal charges — from the federal government or individual states — or in the form of derivative litigation. In many cases, however, white-collar scrutiny falls under one of the following:
- False Claims Act (“FCA”) investigations and litigation.
- Foreign Corruption Practices Act (FCPA) and Global Anti-corruption offenses.
- Antitrust and Competition violations.
- Compliance and Regulatory issues.
- Environmental offenses.
Below, we’ll take a quick look at some of the more common types of scrutiny a business might find itself dealing with.
According to the law, tax fraud is when corporations knowingly and intentionally falsify information about their taxes. The General Tax Fraud Program is the most extensive criminal investigation program managed by the IRS. President Biden just indicated an intent to increase criminal enforcement in tax matters.
Attorney’s working in tax law must handle complex criminal and civil matters that involve allegations of fraud or other noncompliance. In most cases, the attorney will first attempt to resolve taxpayer issues working directly with the IRS. If civil or criminal cases are brought against their client, tax lawyers will defend them in state court, U.S. Tax Court, and on appeal.
False Claims Act Litigation
Also known as the “Lincoln Law,” the False Claims Act is a federal law that imposes liability on individuals or businesses that defraud government programs. It is one of the government’s primary weapons for fighting against the submission of false or fraudulent claims. The FCA provides penalties and triple damages for knowingly submitting a false or fraudulent claim to the United States for government funds or property. It is often the vehicle utilized by the Government to pursue fraud in a variety of industries and context.
This law includes a provision that allows “whistleblowers” to file actions on behalf of the government. The person filing under the FCA stands to receive a portion of the penalties and triple damages assessed by the government. These claims usually involve healthcare, military, or other government spending programs. There is an entire industry of plaintiffs lawyers who pursue these claims independently of the Government.
Because of the latitude afforded to government agencies to interpret environmental laws, being accused of an environmental crime can be a problematic situation for businesses. The United States Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division (“EPA”) and state-level environmental quality departments often work together to investigate environmental crimes and refer those matters for prosecution.
Defending against the complex web of environmental law requires an attorney with experience in this area. Many criminal statutes enforcing these laws can be applied even when there is no negligence or misconduct.
About Samuel Dewey
Samuel Dewey is a successful lawyer and former Senior Counsel to the US House of Representatives Financial Services Committee and Chief Investigator and Counsel to the US Senate Special Committee on Aging. Mr. Dewey specializes in: (1) white-collar investigations, compliance, and litigation; (2) regulatory compliance and litigation; and (3) complex public policy matters. Within these fields, Mr. Dewey is considered an expert in Congressional investigations and attendant matters. Mr. Dewey has a BA in Political Science, a JD from Harvard, and is admitted to practice law in Washington, DC, and Maryland.