Sidley has earned a reputation for representing clients in high-stakes congressional investigations and hearings. Our congressional investigations lawyers help prominent financial institutions, public companies, and individuals anticipate and manage the intricacies and related fallout associated with congressional action. We help clients take charge of even the most challenging situations. We understand the investigation process, are familiar with the staffs of the committees, and understand what investigators are looking for. We know the industries that are being investigated and apply our experience effectively.
Congressional oversight presents challenges not found in the more familiar realms of civil litigation or regulatory investigations. Even though a congressional investigation may seem to involve familiar legal processes, congressional investigations are not limited by typical due process protections and are deeply infused with politics. They are noteworthy and newsworthy, and they often have consequences beyond the investigation itself. Members of our team advise clients in all aspects of the congressional investigation process — from responding to informal and formal inquiries, to interacting with major investigative committees, answering subpoenas, preparing witnesses for testimony, and managing every legal, political, and public relations consideration.
Based primarily in Washington, D.C., Sidley’s Congressional Investigations team has successfully handled an array of congressional probes, including for clients caught up in many of the major political events of the past four decades. The full strength and depth of the firm’s services are available to help clients manage legal issues within and beyond the investigation. Our lawyers work seamlessly with colleagues from Sidley’s top-tier Government Strategies and White Collar practices, providing strategic advice on congressional engagements to clients in virtually every industry sector. These include banking, finance, internet advertising, technology, automotive, retail, biotech, cryptocurrency, agriculture, and private equity.
We provide value to our clients in the following ways:
- Understanding the Landscape: Our team knows the key members of Congress in both political parties who are central to investigations, the political and policy context in which they ask their questions, how they may react to various tactics, and strategies our clients might adopt in response. We also consider the potential effects that election cycles, news cycles, and the congressional calendar have on those responses.
- Designing Effective Strategies: We design strategies that incorporate the likelihood that subpoenas can be issued or successfully enforced, the external deadlines or timeframes under which the investigating committees operate, committee resource constraints, the views and dispositions of individual committee members, and the political balance in Congress.
- Managing Public Relations Actions: Our lawyers are mindful of the ways in which press coverage can affect the strategies of both sides of an inquiry. Working closely with our clients and leading public relations firms, we can anticipate and mitigate the effects of such coverage, ensuring that our legal strategies are appropriately complemented and bolstered by optimal political and public relations actions to meet our clients’ needs.
- Preparing Witnesses to Testify: We are well-versed in preparing company CEOs and others to testify before Congress. Leveraging our direct congressional experience, we are able to anticipate the questions that are likely to arise in hearings. We develop briefing books, Q&A documents, opening statements, and statements for the record. In addition, we help train witnesses on how to answer the kinds of questions expected from members of the House and Senate, which often differ from those in a typical legal proceeding.
- Mitigating Collateral Consequences: Anticipating and preparing for potential inquiries before they begin can give clients an early advantage if and when they do occur. Congressional investigations carry high risks of sparking other types of investigations and claims, as well as civil lawsuits by private litigants or by the federal or state governments. A congressional appearance that goes poorly can also prompt formal criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, either for suspected underlying criminal activity or for lying to Congress. Mitigating these risks and avoiding such collateral impacts are important ways in which our integrated team helps protect clients.
About Our Team
Sidley’s Congressional Investigations team consists of bipartisan lawyers and senior policy advisors who have years of experience in both Congress and the executive branch. A number of our partners are former staff members of congressional investigative committees as well as executive branch veterans who have dealt with Congress on behalf of the White House and other federal agencies. Our team knows how investigations work from the inside. We hold the highest level of security clearance and can work on the most sensitive matters. With a deep understanding of the inner workings of the legislative and executive branches, our lawyers and policy advisors have the insight on how executive branch agencies and inspectors general are likely to respond to requests for formal inquiries and what collateral consequences may arise from such inquiries.
Our experience spans a wide range of investigative subject matters, congressional investigating committees, and client and industry types. Examples of our recent works include representing:
- One of the seven largest banks in the United States in relation to congressional inquiries and oversight hearings.
- A national bank in high-profile congressional inquiries into alleged sales-practice violations.
- A former Treasury Department official in relation to an investigation into the largest CARES Act loan.
- A lending services provider in an investigation related to fraud in the Paycheck Protection Program.
- A real estate-related trade association and its largest members in a series of direct inquiries by the House Financial Services Committee and Senate Banking Committee.
- A cryptocurrency and financial services company in managing congressional inquiries and relationships.
- A crypto mining company in responding to an inquiry from members of the House and Senate into its energy usage.
- An individual subpoenaed by the House Select Committee on Benghazi as part of the Committee’s investigation into the events surrounding the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
- A Fortune 500 global energy company in an investigation by the House Committee on Natural Resources into the environmental impact of its power production in Puerto Rico.
- One of the world’s largest automotive parts companies in a congressional investigation conducted by both the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee.
- An international food manufacturing company in an investigation by the House Oversight and Reform Committee related to the Environmental Protection Agency administrator’s compliance with federal ethics laws.
- An internet classified advertisement platform facing congressional inquiries into its content-filtering policies and procedures.
- A major defense contractor in a Senate Armed Services Committee investigation into the use of private subcontractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- A leading trade association in connection with a congressional inquiry into marketing practices and the regulatory framework involving the industry it represents.
- A leading pharmaceutical manufacturer in connection with a congressional inquiry into its marketing practices.
- A leading biotechnology firm in connection with a congressional inquiry into the pricing of certain of the company’s products.
- An agricultural company and its chief executive in congressional hearings relating to a food recall stemming from an outbreak of food-borne infection.