Corporate Compliance

Debevoise Probe of Siemens Hits Roadblocks

Debevoise & Plimpton’s internal corporate probe of misconduct at Siemens AG has been hindered by uncooperative employees and prosecutors.

The investigation into allegations of bribes for business was proceeding so slowly last summer that some board members questioned whether the law firm should have been hired, according to the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.). The ongoing probe, which began more than a year ago, appears to be making more progress since Siemens introduced an amnesty program for employees in the fall.

Siemens says it has paid $507 million to outside advisers for the bribery matter, although it’s unclear how much of that amount was for Debevoise’s legal fees, the story says. The engineering company is under investigation in several countries, including the United States, which is more lenient with companies that ferret out wrongdoing and advise prosecutors of their findings.

Debevoise’s probe was slowed by senior managers who encouraged other employees not to talk about wrongdoing, and by prosecutors in Germany and Switzerland who initially refused the law firm’s request for information, the story reports. Some workers also questioned why they should give the law firm information that will be turned over to U.S. prosecutors, who may use the results to levy a fine that will go into United States coffers.

Sources close to the probe told the newspaper that the firm was too aggressive at the beginning of the investigation, causing some to be wary of cooperating.

But prosecutors in Munich are now beginning to share some information with the law firm, although legal restrictions limit the exchanges. A Debevoise letter released by Siemens says it has developed “very substantial leads” about involvement of management board members.

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