The Hill Quotes Akin Gump’s Congressional Investigations Team on Busy Year Ahead

The Hill has quoted three members of Akin Gump’s congressional investigations practice in its article “K Street in overdrive as investigations ramp up.” The article reports on what is expected to be an uptick in congressional probes this year.

The article notes that law firms are adding to their teams in anticipation of increased work, including hiring those with experience working for congressional committees. Karen Christian, a partner who joined Akin Gump last month after serving as general counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is one example. She told The Hill, “There’s an art to understanding how an investigation fits in the House and the Senate.”

It’s not just businesses that are likely to be investigated, according to the article, though individuals who are subject to such a probe face a different set of issues, according to Steven Ross, co-head of Akin Gump’s congressional investigations practice. “There’s more focus on personal risk in terms of criminal exposure,” he said.

Regardless of who is being investigated, though, congressional investigations practice co-head Raphael Prober said it’s almost a given that they hire a firm with a strong team, even if the investigation appears to be politically motivated or meritless. “It can be a knee-jerk reaction but it doesn’t change the fact that Congress has a pretty big megaphone and subpoena authority,” he pointed out.

Ross launched Akin Gump’s investigations practice in 1993 and has experience with the probe into Iran-Contra and the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton. “At that time, nobody had a congressional investigations defense practice,” he said. “Previously, the target of the investigation would hire a lobbyist who might have a good relationship with the [committee] chairman, thinking that they could make it go away. Or conventional litigators would be brought in and would pound the table, which isn’t necessarily helpful in a congressional investigation setting.”

For the client, “the spectrum of risk” can be high, Ross added, and can include criminal prosecution, senior leaders losing their jobs, civil litigation, reputational harm and market loss.

Prober attributes the growth of congressional investigations practices to the financial crisis, which he said, “led more firms to start to recognize the importance of these investigations. While a number of firms in D.C. tend to understand the nuances and potential pitfalls of these investigations, it has historically been an inside-the-Beltway practice.”