Originally published in The National Law Journal - September 10, 2012.
Penn State’s missteps offer four important lessons for any organization that finds itself involved in a criminal investigation.
As a Pennsylvania State University alumnus and native central Pennsylvanian, I’ve watched the unfolding Jerry Sandusky scandal — and Penn State’s response to it — with outrage, regret and deep sadness. But I’ve also watched those events as a former federal and state prosecutor and white-collar defense attorney who has overseen hundreds of police investigations and led scores of internal investigations of organizations, large and small. From that perspective, I believe my alma mater’s missteps after learning of the grand jury investigation offer four important lessons for any organization that finds itself involved in a criminal investigation:
First, when the threat of a government investigation arises, organizations must quickly investigate internally to learn the scope of the conduct, assess their legal exposure, and chart a course of action. That course may involve cooperating with government investigators, taking proactive actions or simply preparing a defense for a later day. But none of those decisions can be made until the organization’s leaders understand what occurred through an internal investigation....
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