Corporate Counsel Fight Back: Track Scapegoat Prosecutions

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on October 12, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Lauren Stevens' acquittal earlier this year didn't come a minute too soon and it raised questions about whether corporate counsel are becoming scapegoats.

The Association of Corporate Counsel is worried about just that so it launched an inquiry to track instances where in-house counsel have been targeted in litigation. They're not just worried about targeting from government agencies or government and state prosecutors. The study will also look at whether opposing counsel are unfairly targeting the actions of in-house lawyers.

But is the issue really targeting? Or is the problem with how in-house counsel and government regulators interact?

There is of course some evidence that in-house counsel and company executives have been receiving harsher penalties for company wrongdoing in recent years, reports Inside Counsel. Stevens herself was at least in part the victim of overzealous prosecution.

But some view Stevens as part of the problem.

Stevens may have invited the indictment against her by promising more to the FDA than was feasible or reasonable from a business perspective, opines Inside Counsel writer Eric Esperne.

By not making goals or objectives before responding to the FDA's letter request Stevens may have set herself up to disappoint expectations. Esperne calls Stevens out for responding to the request before she had decided what her objective would be.

He also chides her for not knowing what was happening in GlaxoSmithKlein operations outside of the main office.

The counter to that argument is that Stevens wasn't doing anything wrong according to government standards. Officials went after her because they were unhappy with how she responded to their inquiry not because she was suspected of other illegal activity.

The ACC's study is designed to uncover whether unreasonable scrutiny is a real concern for in-house counsel that deal with government agencies. In the meantime, no one will fault you if you're looking over your shoulder when you have to deal with federal officials.

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