What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You: The Case for ‘Special Counsel’ Investigations

by Howard Anderson, Edwin Stier



Numerous episodes of corporate misconduct in recent years have intensified longstanding debates over the ethics and social accountability of large business enterprises. Many corporations have responded to incidents of proven or suspected wrongdoing by retaining lawyers to conduct "special counsel" investigations, which often produce reports and findings that are made public or are provided to law enforcement and regulatory agencies. This article addresses special counsel investigations on two levels: first, their practical aspects, such as the potential risks and benefits to the corporation and its managers, and how the results can be used; and second, the potential role of such investigations as a credible means of corporate self-policing. It argues that in appropriate circumstances special counsel investigations can serve both corporate self-interest and the interest of society, but that both social and practical benefits depend upon management's willingness to ensure that they are genuinely objective, thorough, and professionally conducted.

California Management Review

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Published at Berkeley Haas for more than sixty years, California Management Review seeks to share knowledge that challenges convention and shows a better way of doing business.

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