Based on my experience, most Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (Canada’s version of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) start with an after hours telephone call.  You can usually sense the panic through the telephone line. The caller has learned that the company (which has international activities) is under investigation for bribing a foreign public official.  He/she does not know much about the facts and even less about the law. He/she does not know what to do, what to say, or where to start.  All he/she does know is that the situation is serious.

This is the type of call that requires active listening and intense questioning.  The potential client has a lot of questions about how could this have happened and what should be done.  The lawyer must ask the tough questions in order to assess the situation AND assess whether to take on the file.  The questions about how and next steps give important information about the twists and turns the file may take (these files always have ups & downs, twists & turns).  Most importantly, this first discussion informs on whether the potential client wants he lawyer to help them manage the crisis (from a legal perspective) or agree with them that they should be able to sweep this little thing under the rug and carry on business as usual (hint: the later group are often problematic clients).

In anti-bribery cases, the newly hired lawyer has to catch up to the investigators very quickly.  The newly hired lawyer must be able to devote time to learn quickly, investigate quickly, and act quickly.  The newly hired lawyer must ask the hard question – the questions that the client does not want you to ask them.  The newly hired lawyer has to preserve the evidence – whatever that may be. The newly hired lawyer must look into the emails, texts and correspondence of employees (who have potentially engaged in wrongdoing and do not wish for you to discover their actions). The newly hired lawyer has to be prepared to investigate the person who placed the first panic call and signed he retainer letter.

Both persons on that call have adrenalin levels that are higher than normal.  Both must say, “It is go time”.