In many instances when allegations of wrongdoing surface at a company, the appropriate course for the company’s board will be to appoint an independent committee to investigate the allegations. The investigation can be conducted in a way to preserve confidential information and privileges. However, recent case law developments underscore the fact that in some instances the company’s shareholders may have access to the records of the investigation even when all steps are taken to preserve confidentiality and privileges. In the following guest post, Mary Gill and Courtney Quirós of the Alston & Bird law firm take a look at the recent case law developments and consider the implications of these recent cases. Mary is a partner and Courtney is an associate in the Securities Litigation Group at the firm. This article was prepared for a panel at the 23rd Annual Securities Litigation and Regulatory Practice Seminar, to be held in Atlanta on October 23, 2015.
I would like to thank Mary and Courtney for their willingness to publish their guest post on this site. I welcome guest post submissions from responsible authors on topics of interest to this blog’s readers. Please contact me directly if you would like to submit a guest post. Here is Mary and Courtney’s guest post.
In the current environment, it is not uncommon for a company, its executives, or directors to be presented with allegations of wrongdoing. Whether the issues are raised by a concerned or disgruntled employee, the Securities Exchange Commission, or the Department of Justice, the company should be prepared to promptly determine the nature and severity of the potential problem. Generally, the appropriate course in these situations is for the board of directors of the company to appoint an independent committee to oversee an internal investigation into the allegations. Through an internal investigation, the company can determine the factual nature and scope of the alleged misconduct and analyze the legal implications of the situation, which will allow the company’s board of directors to take appropriate remedial action if necessary. The investigation should be conducted in such a way to achieve maximum credibility, integrity, and accuracy, while at the same time preserving all applicable privileges and legal defenses for the company to the greatest extent possible. A recent Delaware Supreme Court decision serves as a reminder that even where companies and their counsel take care to protect the confidentiality of an internal investigation, there is no guarantee against shareholders’ access to these records.
Continue Reading Guest Post: Access to Internal Investigation Records by Shareholders