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White Collar Defense and Government Investigations

Defending and resolving government investigations of alleged violations of federal or state law implicating criminal and civil liability

These government investigations are frequently instituted through the issuance of grand jury subpoenas or civil investigative demands, investigating such issues as health care fraud, environmental crimes, securities and insider trading violations, as well as inquiries from the Internal Revenue Service.

Experience and Investigative Skills

Developing a strategy at the outset is critical to best position the subject of the investigation. Led by a former assistant U.S. attorney, Varnum’s team has the experience and investigative skills to critically examine witnesses and evidence, which is essential for conducting a credible investigation, identifying violations of law and to defend the subject of the investigation. Having insight into the “prosecutor’s perspective” permits us to successfully shepherd the client through the process.

Internal Investigations

Many times, an internal investigation should be conducted to best position the client with respect to the government’s inquiry. During an investigation, we will interview key employees, review and analyze critical evidence to determine whether violations have been committed, and determine whether there are any gaps in the company’s compliance plans. Conducting an investigation not only helps the company identify and remedy potential problems but it also demonstrates to the government the company’s commitment to resolving any potential problems.

Always client focused, our goal is to achieve the most efficient and favorable resolution for the client – be it a declination of prosecution, defense of the business or individual in court, or a settlement.

Criminal Defense – IRS

Varnum defends individuals and corporations accused of white collar crimes such as tax fraud, health care fraud, bank fraud and customs violations. Because of our tax background and the broad experience added by our former IRS and Michigan Department of Treasury investigator specialists, we are experienced at tracking the movement of funds, which can mean the difference between conviction and acquittal in many cases. Our team includes former federal and state prosecutors, litigators and revenue agents, and other skilled technical practitioners. When trial is unavoidable, Varnum lawyers have substantial experience in defending criminal prosecutions and other enforcement proceedings.

Varnum lawyers help our clients through the judgment calls necessary to defend an investigation and preserve business stability. We focus on strategies that will address both immediate concerns and the ever-present risks posed by other government agencies.

We have significant experience representing clients who face prosecutors, and other federal and state enforcement officials, in matters involving the highest stakes. Our first course of action is to negotiate the most advantageous outcome possible. However, if litigation ensues, we are at home in the courtroom, and we defend our clients powerfully at trial. Collectively, we have tried scores of cases and have argued at least as many appeals.

Criminal Law

Varnum’s criminal law attorneys provide a much broader array of services than simply criminal defense. In light of the passage of legislation which has extended the bounds of criminal law beyond its traditional quarters, more companies and executives today require expert advice and representation in the area of criminal law. This might include preparing compliance programs for new statutes governing corporate responsibility, environmental law and health care. It could involve responding to requests for information and documents from the SEC and other regulatory agencies. Finally, in the unlikely event that a company or executive is the subject or target of a criminal investigation in these or other areas, it might involve criminal defense representation.

Our team has the knowledge and background to help clients manage these changing dynamics. The team combines the talents of attorneys with experience in the regulatory areas where criminal penalties have expanded. The team is led by former Justice Department prosecutor Ron DeWaard and includes other former prosecutors with criminal litigation experience. The team also includes corporate, labor and environmental attorneys who are specialists in their fields.

As a team, these attorneys work together to provide services such as internal investigations, compliance programs, victims’ rights representation, representation during investigations and traditional criminal defense.


If an organization is under government investigation or has somehow become involved in an investigation, the team provides representation and consultation to protect the organization’s interests. This could include a situation in which the organization or one of its executives is specifically under investigation or where the organization has been the subject of a seizure, search warrant or subpoena.

Compliance Programs

The team assists organizations in setting up procedures and audits that promote compliance with various regulatory requirements, as well as the newly instituted requirements of legislation, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The team also provides consulting with regard to the various compliance issues raised by regulations and legislation that can potentially result in criminal penalties.

Victims’ Rights Representation

The team represents companies and individuals who have been victims of fraud or other criminal activity. This type of representation often includes the filing of civil litigation in conjunction with providing liaison assistance with federal law enforcement for the purposes of either initiating an investigation or coordinating the civil litigation efforts with a law enforcement investigation.

Internal Investigations

The team counsels organizations, directors or officers who have discovered or have reason to believe that their employees or executives have been involved in criminal activity. This includes conducting an internal investigation protected by attorney-client privilege or working with in-house counsel or human resources personnel, including providing advice on self-reporting and advice related to a concurrent investigation by an outside agency.

Criminal Defense

The team provides traditional criminal defense in both federal and state courts for those clients who have been charged with criminal acts in a white-collar crime.

Substantive Areas of Representation

The team has experience and has provided representation or advice on criminal matters in these and other areas:

  • Fraud
  • Michigan wage and hour law
  • Embezzlement
  • IRS matters
  • Money laundering
  • Extortion
  • SEC matters
  • Environmental
  • United States customs matters
  • Health care
  • ICE matters
  • Sarbanes-Oxley matters

“Varnum has a strong litigation group. I would highly recommend them for your litigation needs. They are responsive, effective and offer wise counsel in difficult situations.”

Client, US News – Best Lawyers® Best Law Firms

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