D.C. Circuit Confirms Applicability of Attorney-Client Privilege to Internal Investigations

A March 2014 decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sent shock waves through the ranks of corporate counsel: The District Court ruled that an internal investigation was not privileged because it would have been conducted regardless of whether the company was also seeking legal advice.  See “When Are Reports of Internal Investigations Protected by Attorney-Client Privilege?,” The FCPA Report, Vol. 3, No. 9 (Apr. 30, 2014).  In an important reaffirmation of the strength and breadth of the attorney-client privilege, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit recently vacated the District Court’s decision, ruling that the privilege was available so long as seeking legal advice was a “significant” purpose – even if not the sole purpose – of the internal investigation.  See also “Federal Court Decision Narrows the Scope of Attorney-Client Privilege Available to Hedge Fund Managers in Internal Investigations,” Hedge Fund Law Report, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Jan. 23, 2014).

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