I was totally shocked this morning when the FBI showed up at our offices out of the blue with a subpoena, entered our HQ and began hauling out computers and business records. Our CFO was present and trying to answer their questions. We are a union shop and we work on federally funded bridge projects but I have no idea what this is about. How should we have handled this?
– Losing It!
Dear Losing It,
Sorry to hear this news, LI. But when the FBI raids you, immediately say to yourself … “keep it together.”
If that doesn’t work, say “keep it together, keep it together, keep it together, keep it together” in rapid succession as fast as you can*. Indeed, you must stay calm as this is serious business. To conduct a raid, the FBI (or any federal agent) convinced a federal judge that there is probable cause that a crime was committed and … brace yourself … THERE IS EVIDENCE OF THE CRIME IN YOUR BUILDING! Best practices, simply stated, are to develop a protocol BEFORE the unlikely event you are raided (much like a disaster response team or a plane ride, LI):
- Establish an immediate response team: receptionist, in-house counsel, outside counsel, managers and security personnel.
- Collaborate with the lead agent immediately. Attempt to establish a working relationship and perhaps negotiate procedures to reduce business interruption.
- Instruct the security team to monitor, videotape and otherwise document the activities of the FBI personnel during the raid. Assure that the documents, files and computers searched or seized are not outside the scope of the warrant and document or retain copies of what is taken.
- Use due care to avoid release of privileged materials, trade secrets.
- Above all…. NO ONE RESPONDS TO AGENTS’ QUESTIONS OUTSIDE OF THE PRESENCE OF THE COMPANY’S OUTSIDE COUNSEL.
*(ode to Bowfinger starring Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, 1999)