For years now, white collar investigations and enforcement actions have been gaining importance for businesses and individuals. Hardly a year goes by without headlines about the criminal investigation of corporate misconduct: Allegations of bribery and corruption, so-called “Cum/Ex” transactions in the financial sector or allegations of manipulation of diesel vehicles, to name just a few particularly relevant examples. In the practice of criminal defense, it is particularly noticeable that the pressure to prosecute, the professional expertise and the investigative powers as well as the international coordination among the investigating authorities and the amount of the fines and penalties ultimately imposed are constantly increasing.
The above examples also show that the (legally undefined) concept of “white collar” is not exhaustive in content, but can affect all areas of law in the context of entrepreneurial activity.
Anyone can be affected by a criminal investigation in the course of their professional career. Irrespective of the outcome, the mere initiation of such proceedings can have far-reaching consequences, despite the validity of the presumption of innocence.
Investigations of individual employees often have serious consequences for their employer as well, such as, for example, searches of company premises extensively covered in the media, resulting in considerable disruption of business processes and reputational damages. Furthermore, there is often the (de facto) compulsion to carry out lengthy and costly internal investigations and subsequently to cooperate with the investigating authorities. The ensuing prosecutorial investigation can then result in high corporate fines, including a confiscation of profits, as well as the exclusion from public tenders.
In such situations as described above, the early involvement of criminal defense counsel with relevant experience is essential. Especially in white collar matters, the course for the later process and outcome of the proceedings is often set already during the preliminary investigation stages. Once decisions have been made, they can often no longer be reversed – especially not in public trial, when the reputational damage has already been done. If competent defense counsel is involved at an early stage, however, solutions can often be worked out at an early stage of the process, which in particular avoid the need for a public trial and can considerably reduce the duration of the overall proceedings.