If you find yourself on the receiving end of a state attorney general subpoena, you may be asking yourself “what do I do now?” They say the best defense is a good offense. So, in this case, being prepared with a game plan is critical.
Step 1: Stop and put things in perspective
If you or your business received a subpoena, it is important to remember that while still serious, a subpoena is not a lawsuit. Because subpoenas are generally not publicly filed, you may have a chance to resolve the issue before a lawsuit is filed that could negatively impact your reputation and/or business.
Often as a result of complaints received about your business, the attorney general has issued the subpoena to investigate and determine whether something you are doing is harming consumers in the state that needs to be remedied. In simple terms, the attorney general has fired a “warning shot” when it serves a subpoena and how you respond will determine what happens next.
Step 2: Hire experienced counsel to assist with responding to the attorney general’s subpoena
While you are not legally required to do so, it is strongly encouraged that you hire experienced counsel for a variety of reasons. An experienced attorney can:
- Explain the legal significance of a subpoena;
- Provide guidance on how the regulatory process works;
- Explain what your options are;
- Explain what the consequences of each option are;
- Work with the attorney general’s office to limit the scope of the inquiry;
- Work with the attorney general’s office to obtain more time, if needed; and
- Provide guidance on how to avoid receiving a subpoena again.
Step 3: Cooperate and assist counsel in responding to the attorney general subpoena
How you respond to the subpoena will determine what happens next. The first thing counsel will tell you is that under no circumstance should you destroy or delete anything. When it comes to document tampering, it is not better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.
Second, it is important to ensure that you cooperate with your attorney and provide him/her with the full story. This ensures that he/she can best protect you and/or any sensitive information. Experienced counsel understands the law and will properly advise you as to what you are and are not required to turn over.
At the end of the day, finding the right balance between cooperating with the investigation, while protecting your interests, is an exercise that an experienced attorney best understands.
Warning: Failure to comply with an inquiry can result in further investigation, additional investigations by another state’s attorney general, and/or the filing of a lawsuit; all of which can take years to resolve and come with high costs.
By hiring experienced counsel and following the steps set forth above, you are putting yourself in the best position to achieve a favorable, quick, and cost-effective outcome. Having someone in your corner who you can trust will allow for you to continue running your business, rather than having to navigate the complexities of an attorney general inquiry.
The attorneys at Klein Moynihan Turco have represented businesses in countless subpoena matters and can help your business minimize costs and avoid litigation. If you or your business has been served with an attorney general subpoena and you need assistance with responding, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at (212) 246-0900.
The material contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not legal advice, nor is it a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney. Each situation is unique, and you should not act or rely on any information contained herein without seeking the advice of an experienced attorney.
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