Culture Risk and Sensitive Investigations

Executives and boards are increasingly subject to intense scrutiny from shareholders, regulators, employees and the public regarding the culture they foster through their decision-making, tone and behavior. Across industries, the #MeToo and Women’s Safety movements have galvanized public opinion and made workplace culture a source of significant, Board-level risk. Not only can a toxic culture expose an organization to myriad risks through accusations of sexism, racism, intimidation, other forms of harassment, unethical conduct or even violence, but it can also obscure other issues. If a department, subsidiary or plant has a problematic culture, how can the CEO and board be sure that there are no other compliance failings (like safety, fraud or bribery), which employees are afraid to surface? How can senior executives be sure that key messages are communicated to all areas of the business, and that all departments and offices are adhering to the organization’s policies and procedures? How can leaders be sure that concerns or mistakes are raised and escalated properly without fear of retribution?

Jenner & Block’s Culture Risk and Sensitive Investigations Practice helps organizations and their stewards to understand the full implications of cultural problems, including deep-rooted issues like systemic racism and gender bias. Leveraging the deep credibility and bench-depth of our market-leading Investigations, Compliance and Defense Practice, we conduct independent reviews – often under attorney-client privilege – to help clients understand the facts, the risks, and advise on the best path forward. In addition, we help our clients avoid a corporate crisis and mitigate the risks in the event of one – in a 360 approach: press/reputation, government interest, policies and procedures, employment issues, internal organizational dynamics.

Responsive: We help clients take control swiftly when employee or ethical emergencies arise, both minimizing employment risk and scoping the extent of the surfaced concern.  We may be brought in when:

  • a complaint or incident is raised through an internal reporting channel;
  • an external complaint is raised, such as with a government agency;
  • an employee exit interview reveals a concern, e.g. about intimidation, harassment or workplace safety;
  • news coverage or social media reports of problematic behavior related to the organization.

Proactive: We also work with clients seeking toproactively examine their organization’s culture to identify any broad governance and legal risks. Our in-depth analysis marshals a variety of investigative and analytical techniques to provide directors and CEOs with the information they need to make real-time, fact-based decisions. Not only does strengthening culture mitigate myriad risks, but also helps leaders increase their organization’s performance by decreasing employee turnover, improving morale, regaining lost working time, and accelerating productivity. Reviews may be precipitated by:

  • media reports on problematic cultures in a particular industry, causing similarly-situated organizations to take stock of how they compare; 
  • observation of unusual attrition patterns, rise in workplace accidents, unfavorable results on an employee survey, or a lack of diversity as compared with corporate goals/benchmarks;
  • compliance-driven determination to mitigate against potential for wrongdoing by individual employees by conducting a proactive review of the overall culture, or the penetration of key compliance messages from top leadership to line-level employees;
  • due diligence of an acquisition target by an acquiror seeking an assessment of potential culture risks and understanding of the requirements to effectively integrate corporate cultures.

Led by co-chairs of the firm’s Positive Work Environment Committee and the Women’s Forum, the Practice leverages Jenner & Block’s reputation as a values-driven organization and draws upon the unparalleled investigative, litigation and industry experience of our lawyers. Our diverse team brings a unique set of capabilities to help companies assess their workplace culture and live up to their values:

  • A targeted approach to strategic analysis of the company’s key culture risks and tailored investigative plans to assess those risks and provide actionable recommendations;
  • A long track record of conducting sensitive, high-profile internal investigations and compliance reviews for organizations concerned about alleged wrongdoing or potential misconduct;
  • Extensive employment law and industry expertise to draw upon in assessing the organizational dynamics of international organizations across sectors, including education, energy, technology, media and entertainment, manufacturing, financial services, real estate, and many others;
  • Significant investigative and trial experience associated with cases of violence towards women, including sexual violence, as well as workplace deaths and allegations of inappropriate behavior made against senior leaders;
  • The ability to manage crises comprehensively, including advising on stakeholder communications, public relations strategy, and responding to government and shareholder scrutiny;
  • Colleagues with the experience and emotional intelligence critical to investigating sensitive, nuanced situations, fully aware of the disruption they can cause to the business and the distraction they pose from the organization’s mission.