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'I am being raided': Pinsent Masons White Collar Crime and Investigations Dawn Raid Tool

The recommendations, information and materials contained in this website are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal or other professional advice, and should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific advice.

  • 1. The officials arrive

    The officials have arrived, introduced themselves, and have asked to see a particular person or the company's most senior member of management on the premises. You should:

    Remain

    • Calm, polite, and co-operative.

    Arrange

    • For the company's most senior member of management and, if available, the most senior lawyer on-site, to meet the officials.
    • Move the officials into a meeting room that does not contain any files or have access to the company's IT system.
    • Explain that someone will be down to meet the officials shortly. In the meantime, note their identification credentials and contact details, take three copies of their formal authorisation documents (search warrant / production order / compulsory notice), these should identify the issuing authority and the legal basis for the dawn raid, and obtain contact details for the official in charge.

    Contact

    • If you have external compliance lawyers on stand-by, then call them and ask them to attend immediately.
    • If you have no such existing arrangement, then please contact a Pinsent Masons Dawn Raids specialist.
    • If you need immediate assistance, then please call us now.

    Obtain information

    • Check the formal authorisation documents and give the external lawyers details of which authority the officials represent, how many officials there are, and scan/email to the lawyers a copy of the formal authorisation documents.
    • Ask the external lawyers by telephone to confirm the nature of the investigation: which authority is undertaking the investigation; is it civil, criminal or regulatory; do the officials have a search warrant?
    • Ask the external lawyers to indicate when they are likely to arrive and convey that information to the officials.

  • 2. Holding the ring until help arrives

    The company's senior member of management and/or in-house lawyer should read the formal authorisation documents, and confirm whether the officials are authorised to conduct the investigation. The external lawyers will also advise on this.

    The immediate next steps will then vary depending on whether an in-house lawyer is available on site.

    Review the search authorisation

    • Check if the formal authorisation documents apply to your company, paying particular attention to whether the address and date are correct. Take copies
    • Check whether each official has identification documents. If yes, take copies.
    • Check the subject matter and scope of the investigation in the formal authorisation documents, paying particular attention to:
      • Which authority is undertaking the investigation (SFO, HMRC, FCA or another sector regulator)?
      • Is it a civil, regulatory or a criminal investigation?
      • Do the officials have a court warrant allowing them to search the company's premises?
      • Do you understand from the scope of the formal authorisation documents which documents are "relevant" to the search, and where and with whom they are located?
    • If there are any areas of uncertainty or discrepancies, then inform the company's in-house and external lawyers immediately. If you need immediate assistance, then please call us now.

    Try to find out

    • Whether officials are also conducting investigations at any of the company's other sites or at the homes of any of the company's directors or employees.
    • Try to establish if the officials intend to use their powers to interview individuals under caution (the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984). If so, advise the external lawyers immediately and consider instructing additional lawyers to separately represent the relevant individuals to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

    If there are NO in-house lawyers on-site

    • Officials will normally wait for a reasonable period (usually 30-60 minutes) for external lawyers to arrive before starting their investigation if they are satisfied that the company is cooperating.
    • If the external lawyers have already been asked to attend:
      • Explain this to the officials.
      • Confirm the company's intention to cooperate.
      • Give an estimate of their likely time of arrival and pass on contact details for your external lawyers so details can be verified.
      • Ask the officials to delay starting their investigation until the external lawyers arrive.
      • At the very least, seek agreement that no material will be seized and removed from the premises before the external lawyers have arrived.
    • If you have not already done so, ask the external lawyers to attend immediately, and follow the actions above. If you need immediate assistance, then please call us now.
    • The officials may demand:
      • that certain offices are secured or occupied, or files or documents set aside;
      • that external communications are suspended (e.g., emails and telephone lines) and
      • certain other IT actions are carried out, such as suspending automatic document deletion or back-up processes.
    • Until the investigation commences:
      • It is advisable to agree to these requests if the officials have agreed to delay starting their investigation until external lawyers arrive.

    If there ARE in-house lawyers on-site

    • The officials are likely to decide to start their investigation immediately. You can ask them to delay until external lawyers arrive, but the officials may decline. It is advisable not to intervene further as this could risk being perceived as a failure to cooperate.
    • If the investigation starts immediately, then contact the external lawyers and ask them for further guidance by telephone. If you need immediate assistance, then please call us now.
    • If it is a criminal investigation, then officials are always likely to start their investigation immediately.

  • 3. Assembling an internal response team

    You need to assemble and brief an internal response team to assist during the investigation.

    Circulate mobile telephone numbers for your internal response team, the external lawyers, and the lead official.

    Team structure

    Gather together, and base in a room away from the officials, a team comprising:

    • A senior member of the IT team who can explain the company's IT system, deal with any IT problems that may arise, and assist officials in locating, examining and copying emails and computer records, and/or suspending communications, document deletion or back-up procedures;
    • A senior staff member to act as coordinator and liaise with the officials;
    • Enough staff to act as a "shadow" for each official; and
    • A senior member of management who can take decisions on behalf of the company.

    Shadowing

    Advise your internal team on how to shadow the officials.

    The internal team should shadow the officials to:

    • ensure they are not over-reaching their investigation powers;
    • monitor what they are searching for or seizing; and
    • take copies of any documents seized or copied by officials.

    The internal team should know or seek advice from the company's internal or external lawyers on what documents the officials can read (i.e., documents within the scope of the investigation which are not privileged), what questions the officials can or cannot ask; and who at the company is authorised to respond to any immediate questions or issues

    If you require further legal advice on preparing for a dawn raid, then please contact a Pinsent Masons Dawn Raids specialist. If you need immediate assistance, then please call us now.

  • 4. Internal communications

    Send an email to all the company's employees on-site, informing them of the officials' presence and of the company's intention to cooperate with the investigation, requesting that they do not communicate the existence of the raid with external sources.

    Content of email

    Check the content of the email first with the company's internal or external lawyers, in particular to avoid inadvertently tipping off/prejudicing an investigation (these are separate offences in themselves).

    The email should include the following points:

    • Set out any restrictions placed on the company by the officials (for example, in relation to the use of email or other communications).
    • At all times employees must be professional and courteous in their dealings with the officials.
    • Employees should not volunteer information or documents to the officials (without obtaining the prior consent of the company's management or lawyers in charge of handling the investigation).
    • Employees must not delete, destroy, or conceal, any documentation or data whether in hard or soft copy format, that might relate to the subject matter of the investigation.
    • The routine document destruction policy of the company will be suspended immediately until further notice.
    • Employees should not advise any third party (including staff located at the premises of other companies) of the investigation.
    • Emphasise that any breach of these requirements could be a criminal offence and may additionally be a serious disciplinary offence.

    If you require further legal advice on preparing for a dawn raid, then please contact a Pinsent Masons Dawn Raids specialist. If you need immediate assistance, then please call us now.

  • 5. External communications

    The company should NOT discuss the investigation or even mention that an investigation is underway with any third party, including customers, without obtaining the prior consent of the company’s most senior member of management or the internal / external lawyers in charge of handling the investigation.

    Ensure the content of all external communications is checked by the company's internal or external lawyers before issue to avoid inadvertently risking tipping off / prejudicing an investigation.

    Monitor relevant regulator websites (eg SFO, HMRC, FCA) for any announcements relating to the investigation.

    Prepare, in case it is needed, a brief reactive press announcement reporting the fact of the investigation. The announcement should merely confirm that an investigation is underway and that the company is cooperating with the officials. Do not issue until advised to do so by the company’s internal or external lawyers.

    If the company is listed, consider whether a stock exchange announcement is required.

    Consider whether the company’s insurers should be advised of the investigation.

    If you require further legal advice on preparing for a dawn raid, then please contact a Pinsent Masons Dawn Raids specialist. If you need immediate assistance, then please call us now.

  • 6. External lawyers arrive

    Ask the external lawyers to read and check the officials’ formal authorisation documents and confirm whether the officials are authorised to conduct the on-site investigation.

    Try to persuade the officials to allow the external lawyers and internal team time to hold a brief meeting to discuss the company's duties and how the investigation will be undertaken and monitored, before the officials commence the investigation.

    Nominate a representative from the company who is authorised to handle disputes and a representative from the external lawyers to liaise with the officials during the investigation.

    Whilst the investigation is proceeding, the company and its external lawyers should try to ascertain the scope and nature of the investigation, and what it concerns, what knowledge the officials already appear to possess and whether there may have been a prior leniency application by a third party.

    If you require further legal advice on preparing for a dawn raid, then please contact a Pinsent Masons Dawn Raids specialist. If you need immediate assistance, then please call us now.

  • 7. What powers of search do the officials have?

    Confirm with the external lawyers whether:

    • the officials have the power to search, and
    • it is a civil, regulatory or criminal raid. 

    The powers that the authorities have will vary depending on these and other factors.

    In general, the officials have the right to take photocopies or soft copies of documents or files that they are entitled to read and may, in some cases, have the right to remove the originals of documents or files.

    If there is a search warrant

    If the officials have a search warrant:

    • They will have the legal power to conduct a search of the premises;
    • They can search the premises for documents and information described in the warrant that may be contained in files, the IT system, diaries, daybooks, briefcases and handbags and may also search any car on the premises.
    • The warrant should be scrutinised to ensure that the scope of its authority to authorise the interrogation of electronic systems is clearly understood.

    If there is no search warrant

    If the officials do not have a search warrant:

    • They do not have the power to conduct a search of the premises in relation to the investigation;
    • But they can require files and documents to be produced for the officials to review and possibly the power to take / require copies.

    If you require further legal advice on preparing for a dawn raid, then please contact a Pinsent Masons Dawn Raids specialist. If you need immediate assistance, then please call us now.

  • 8. What if some documents are privileged?

    The officials can read documents that are within the scope of the investigation as described in the formal authorisation documents.

    However, the officials are not entitled to read documents that are covered by legal privilege.

    UK investigation

    If the investigation is being conducted by the SFO or HMRC or another UK sector regulator, the officials:

    • cannot read any written correspondence between the company and its internal or external lawyers, the main purpose of which is legal advice;
    • cannot  read any written correspondence between the company/its internal or external lawyers/ a third party which has been created primarily for the company’s right of defence.

    What to do if the documents might be privileged?

    • Identify where legally privileged documents are kept and whether they are clearly marked as legally privileged.
    • If privileged material is contained within electronic systems, the officials should be put on express notice that the data they are searching contains matters to which privilege applies. That notification, and the official who receives it, should be documented and timed.
    • Circulate amongst the external lawyers and internal team a list of the names of external and in-house lawyers who may have sent or received documents that might be seen by the officials.
    • Take a detailed record of all documents copied (or taken) whether or not they are privileged. Where electronic copies are taken, a detailed record should be made and an additional copy should be made for the company to retain.
    • If there is any doubt regarding whether a document is legally privileged or relevant to the investigation, ask the officials to place the document(s) in an envelope or that an email is flagged as potentially privileged and for further consideration by the company’s lawyers.

    If you require further legal advice on preparing for a dawn raid, then please contact a Pinsent Masons Dawn Raids specialist. If you need immediate assistance, then please call us now.

  • 9. What questions can the officials ask?

    The questions the officials are permitted to ask during a dawn raid depends on the nature of the investigation.

    You should decide which company representative will be the contact point for responding to all questions from officials where possible. Try to direct all but straightforward factual questions (e.g., relating to the location of documents / password to email accounts, etc) to that individual. Nevertheless, the officials may wish to ask questions of specific employees.

    UK civil investigation

    If the investigation is being conducted by the FCA, HMRC or another UK sector regulator, the officials:

    • can generally ask any company employee for an explanation of a document that the official is entitled to read;
    • can ask where a document or file may be found;
    • cannot ask any company employee for an explanation of facts relating to the scope of the investigation unless a formal notice is issued;
    • cannot ask a question of any employee if the answer to it might lead to the individual or company incriminating itself.

    UK criminal investigation

    If the investigation is being conducted by the SFO, HMRC, the Police or another UK sector regulator (such as the FCA using its criminal powers), the officials:

    • can generally ask any company employee for an explanation of a document that the official is entitled to read;
    • can ask where a document or file may be found;
    • may, depending on the type of interview and whether a specific formal notice is served, be able to require any company employee to provide an explanation of facts relating to the scope of the investigation;
    • cannot ask a question of an employee if the answer to it might lead to the individual incriminating themselves;
    • but may, depending on the type of interview, be able to ask any company employee to answer a question even if to do so might lead to the company being incriminated.

    When answering questions

    The person answering questions on behalf of themselves and/or company should:

    • ensure that they are legally represented prior to responding to any questions;
    • reply concisely, limit their reply to what they know and should never speculate;
    • ensure that their response is not false or misleading (as otherwise, that might be a criminal offence and/or expose the company and the individual to the risk of fines);
    • take a note of any questions and answers;
    • seek clarification if the question is vague or complicated; and
    • if possible, it is usually preferable to request that any questions from the officials about documents or facts could be responded to later in writing by the company, rather than orally during the dawn raid.

    If you require further legal advice on preparing for a dawn raid, then please contact a Pinsent Masons Dawn Raids specialist. If you need immediate assistance, then please call us now.

  • 10. Do you have to cooperate?

    It is important for the company and its staff to cooperate at all times with the investigation. If the officials are obstructed when they are trying to exercise their legal powers, it may be a criminal offence for individuals and also lead to the company and/or individuals being fined.

    Legal advice should always be taken before any witness statements are agreed.

    If you require further legal advice on preparing for a dawn raid, then please contact a Pinsent Masons Dawn Raids specialist. If you need immediate assistance, then please call us now.

  • 11. Useful resources

    The following checklists have been designed to be readily available to staff in advance of a dawn raid and provide initial guidance and support in the event of a dawn raid:

  • 12. Contact the White Collar Crime and Investigations Dawn Raids Team

    If you are being dawn raided by the SFO, HMRC or another sector regulator or the police and need immediate assistance, we recommend that you call us now as soon as possible and provide the following information:

    • Details of the raiding authority (i.e. SFO or HMRC etc);
    • The number of officials attending the raid;
    • A copy of the authorities’ formal search authority; and
    • Details of the site(s) being raided.

    We can also provide you with training and advice on how to prepare for a possible dawn raid. Please contact a member of the Pinsent Masons Dawn Raids Team.