A Cautionary Note: Obstruction of Justice and the General Counsel


Recent criminal obstruction charges lodged against in-house counsel signal a shifting enforcement climate that focuses specifically on individual responsibility for alleged illegal actions on behalf of a corporation. This newsletter offers a series of recommended practices health care general counsel should consider in order to reduce individual and organizational exposure to obstruction of justice charges.

Health care general counsel should be increasingly attentive to obstruction of justice risks inherent in any interaction with the government, no matter the degree of formality involved. The recent indictment of a pharmaceutical company’s in-house counsel serves as a strong indication of the government’s willingness to use obstruction-based criminal prosecution theories to address the conduct of individuals in responding to government investigations. United States v. Stevens, No. 10-CR-694 (D. Md. Nov. 8, 2010). This indictment is also consistent with recent attempts by prosecutors to target individuals they believe responsible for corporate misconduct.

Obstruction risks should be of particular concern to the health care general counsel, whose “internal clients” are contacted by government investigators with a frequency seemingly unsurpassed in other industry sectors.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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