What To Do If You’re Investigated by a City or State Agency

Lesley Brovner & Mark Peters
June 21, 2023

In a highly regulated environment, businesses and nonprofits are increasingly receiving inquiries from government agencies at the municipal, state and federal level. Sometimes these inquiries are quickly resolved with a letter or meeting. Other times, they evolve into full blown, white collar, investigations that can divert time, resources and attention away from other business matters. In either situation, it is imperative to have lawyers with experience in government and government regulation interacting with the agency in question. These lawyers can help navigate the process and provide insightful guidance to their clients.

Understanding the Investigative Process

The investigative process is a series of activities or steps that include gathering evidence, analyzing information, and developing and validating theories of potential misconduct. No two investigations are exactly the same, but some general common steps do exist. These include:

• Background and computer assisted research on the entity involved;
• Collection and review of written documents;
• Interviews of employees and other witnesses;
• Forensic review of computer email and accounting systems as needed.

Review the Allegations and Evidence

When you or your business or nonprofit are the subject of a regulatory investigation, it is vital that you understand the scope of the inquiry. In particular, it is important to gain an understanding of where the investigation is headed and what vulnerabilities exist. Attorneys can help with this in several ways:

• Speaking/meeting with the government regulators
• Analyzing written documents;
• Interviewing employees and other witnesses;
• Reviewing computer email and accounting systems as needed;
• Comparing present practices with existing rules and regulations
• Conducting legal research
• Comparing past governmental actions with the present circumstances

Seek Legal Advice and Representation

If your company or nonprofit is under investigation by a regulatory agency, it is essential to have experienced regulatory attorneys to represent you. Not only can such counsel guide you through the process — and avoid common mistakes that make the situation worse — but they will have experience negotiating settlements with the agency involved and can try to minimize any penalty to be assessed.

A knowledgeable regulatory attorney can quickly and efficiently conduct a detailed internal investigation to help your organization determine whether they are following all relevant city, state and federal rules and regulations. If not, the attorney can help create a comprehensive compliance plan to ensure that your organization gets into and remain in compliance with all relevant city, state and federal rules and regulations.

Finally, a seasoned attorney with a proven track record and knowledge of how government agencies work and think, can help you frame the issues you want to bring to the government’s attention in the way best calculated to resonate with the agency in question.

Cooperate With the Investigators

It is often beneficial to the person or entity being investigated to cooperate with investigators, rather than creating an antagonistic relationship. This provides the opportunity to educate the investigators about the business/nonprofit being investigated and possibly limit the inquiry. Experienced investigative attorneys can help communicate with government regulators and frame issues in a way that resonates with them and increase the chances of bringing the inquiry to a speedy conclusion.

Maintain Accurate Records

In many instances, the law requires the maintenance of certain records for a prescribed period of time. Moreover, to demonstrate compliance with relevant laws and regulations, it is imperative for businesses and nonprofits to maintain accurate records. Doing so will allow you to quickly and efficiently respond to government inquiries.

Contacting Experienced Regulatory Attorneys

It is important to hire a lawyer who is familiar with the governmental agency that you are dealing with and has experience both working inside and outside of the government to help you make an informed decision about how to proceed.

The regulatory attorneys at the law offices of Peters Brovner LLP have decades of experience working for the government and have successfully represented both plaintiffs and defendants in matters involving governmental and private institutions.

The firm also has extensive experience dealing with city and state regulatory matters. If you or someone you know needs legal advice, please contact the lawyers at Peters Brovner LLP for a free consultation.