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February 26, 2009 12:20 PM

LETTER FROM LONDON: Debevoise Launches New Investigation and Defense Practice

Posted by Richard Lloyd

Debevoise & Plimpton announced today that it has launched an International Corporate Investigations and Defense practice (ICID), a clear reflection of the increasingly global nature of white-collar crime.

The goal is to formalize the firm's existing network of specialists, including 12 former district attorneys, the former attorneys general of the U.S. and Britain, and other white-collar lawyers on the ground in Paris and Frankfurt. Lord Goldsmith QC, the London-based head of Debevoise's European litigation group and the former British AG, describe the network as an "extraordinary resource."

Goldsmith and Bruce Yannett, a New York partner who specializes in white-collar work and internal investigations, announced the move today and spoke with The Am Law Daily about it. The two spoke of the growing trend of increased cooperation between national regulators in bringing investigations against corporations and executives. Yannett pointed to the convergence of several factors taking hold amid the current economic crisis, including tougher enforcement regimes, increased pressure to hold companies accountable, and pressure on company executives' performance in the downturn, which are quickly forcing changes in the white-collar landscape.

The news comes just months after a Debevoise team, led by Yannett, completed the majority of its work as advisers to the Audit Committee of Siemens AG, after the discovery of widespread corruption at the German engineering group. In an investigation that lasted two years, Siemens was fined a record-breaking $1.3 billion by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Justice, and German authorities. Debevoise billed over Euros200m ($260million) for its work on the investigation. The impact of that case is now clear, Yannett insists: "The SEC and DOJ have held Siemens up as a model in terms of how they want companies to behave (in this type of investigation)," he says.

Richard Lloyd is Chief European Correspondent for The American Lawyer. He can be reached at

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"The SEC and DOJ have held Siemens up as a model in terms of how they want companies to behave (in this type of investigation)," he says.

Err, I wonder what Siemens think of the outcome, having been billed $200m only to end up being fined a truly enormous $1.3bn. Siemens would have been better off offering to pay $1.4bn and paying their US lawyers $1. I don't see how this can be spun into a particularly successful outcome for the company.

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