All crises — whether arising from an organizational emergency, a catastrophic event, or negative publicity — require a coordinated response on an expedited timeline. Sidley has a proven track record helping clients manage non-profit and education crises requiring the quick action, strategic insight, and litigation know-how critical to protecting an institution and its reputation. Working closely with our clients in both responding to and handling crises in non-profits and education, we provide tailored solutions to address a variety of circumstances.
Sidley’s Non-Profits and Education Crisis Management team has demonstrated commitment to the representation of non-profit and education institutions nationwide. Our representation of non-profits is enhanced by our preeminent national practices in trial and appellate litigation and government/internal investigations and litigation and compliance. Sidley has deep experience with non-profits and educational institutions across our substantial governance, regulatory, and litigation capabilities. We are able to draw upon the significant non-profit and education experience of our lawyers across several practice areas to deploy swift, well-planned responses. Major institutions, organizations, and their boards seek our counsel in an emergency because we provide thoughtful, seamless advice for multi-faceted crisis situations. Harnessing our firm’s global resources, Sidley is able to quickly assemble the right team for complex crises facing non-profits and educational institutions.
Comprehensive, Multidisciplinary Experience
We have decades of experience serving as our clients’ first response team in the face of public crises in non-profits and educational institutions to establish and manage both the initial and long-term legal strategies, and assist with remediation efforts. Our work includes:
- Internal investigations, including whistleblower complaints
- Sexual misconduct and other employment-related allegations
- Advising boards, audit and special committees
- Managing legal, policy, political or public relations considerations related to an investigation
- Response to investigations by the Department of Justice (DOJ), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), other federal agencies, state Attorneys General and other oversight bodies
- Counseling on compliance, governance, litigation risks and potential exposure arising from alleged misconduct, investigative findings and negative publicity
- Cybersecurity breach incidents response and prevention
- Congressional inquiry or subpoena response
We regularly assist clients in conducting sensitive investigations, including those involving whistleblower and other internal employee complaints, and dated factual allegations. Our lawyers provide critical, pro-active legal advice to clients on issues that can emerge in any investigation regardless of the subject matter, including mitigating risk of retaliation claims by current or former employees who raise complaints or participate in the investigation. In the context of undertaking these investigations, we regularly advise companies, other organizations, boards, audit committees and special committees on appropriate investigative processes, special committee formation, potential corrective action, and whether the findings should be shared on a voluntary basis with governmental or regulatory bodies or other stakeholders.
Our team includes several current and former university trustees. We also have a number of former U.S. federal and state prosecutors and officials, many of whom served at high levels within the DOJ, SEC and other key investigative and prosecutorial arms of the government. Many of our lawyers also served in the White House Counsel’s Office, and in other senior positions at government agencies. With firsthand knowledge of how government agencies conduct investigations and prosecutions, we are able to help clients navigate these processes efficiently and effectively.
While no crisis or situation is the same, Sidley’s extensive experience includes representation of the following:
- The Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights Campaign Foundation to assist in conducting an internal investigation related to the inclusion of the organizations’ president, Alphonso David, in the New York Attorney General’s report of the investigation of Governor Andrew Cuomo.
- A Special Committee of a major university on governance reform in the wake of a series of scandals.
- The Board of Trustees of the Pennsylvania State University on governance reforms in the wake of the Sandusky scandal.
- Ohio State Football Coach Urban Meyer related to an investigation into allegations arising from athletic department issues.
- A Special Committee in an internal investigation into “Me Too” allegations against a senior employee of a major organization.
- A Special Committee of a prestigious private school in a significant sexual misconduct investigation covering a period of 45 years dating back to the school’s inception and involving interviews of over 100 alumni, teachers, administrators, and coaches.
- Laureate Education, Inc., one of the world's largest higher education institutions, in connection with a qui tam action. After an extensive internal investigation and considerable engagement with the U.S. Department of Justice, successfully convinced DOJ to decline to intervene in the qui tam action and the relators subsequently dismissed the case.
- An Audit Committee in an internal investigation into potential fraudulent conduct of a Board Member and Chair-Elect of a major non-profit organization.
Click here for a pdf of our Non-Profits and Education Crisis Management and Strategic Response brochure.