Internal Investigations Mean Big Money for Law Firms

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Jun. 10, 2013 12:00 am  

The winners in internal investigations of companies are the attorneys and the accountants who are hired to do the work.

“These law firms aren’t cheap,” said Russell Mokhiber, editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter, a weekly newspaper headquartered in Washington, D.C. “They’re throwing their full legal weight to try and prevent a guilty plea.”

The work has become big business for the firms handling the investigations.

“The costs of internal investigation at a major company can run into the millions, and even hundreds of millions, of dollars,” Peter Henning, a professor of law at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, said in an email to Arkansas Business.

Wal-Mart said in company filings that it has spent more than $230 million in its investigation into the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act allegations.

Wal-Mart has hired the law firm of Jones Day of Washington, D.C., to handle the internal investigation.

But a number of firms are working with Wal-Mart on compliance issues. One of those firms is Mitchell Williams Selig Gates & Woodyard of Little Rock, according to one local legal expert who asked not to be named. A Mitchell Williams spokeswoman declined to comment.

Because the Department of Justice and the Securities & Exchange Commission seem to prefer to have former prosecutors handling a company’s internal investigation, it doesn’t hurt the firm that earlier this year it hired two former Assistant U.S. Attorneys, Jane Duke and Karen Whatley.

It’s unclear, however, how much work the firm is doing for Wal-Mart and whether it is even working on the FCPA issues.

“You just really never know what they’re working on,” the legal observer said. “A lot of it is very confidential.”



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