This type of interview is “compelled” because the person or agency who wants to question you is vested by law with a power to demand that you assist their investigation by answering questions.
In complex law enforcement and regulatory investigations such a power is often invoked. Normally, but not necessarily, if you are ordered to assist in this situation it means that you are regarded as a witness, not as a suspect.
If you are required to assist, it is likely that you are a professional or work for a regulated firm. Excluding information covered by legal privilege, the interviewers will probably require you to disclose all you know about relationships with particular clients, colleagues or contacts. They are also likely to show you documents that you wrote or received and ask you to explain why you acted as you did.
These interviews can be invidious. You may be obliged to divulge sensitive and private information or to criticise the actions of others knowing that your words could lead to adverse consequences, legal or reputational, for others including your employer. Generally there is no law or expectation of confidence concerning what is revealed by you during this interview. What you contended during it could become evidence in subsequent legal, regulatory or disciplinary proceedings against either you or another.
It may be a minefield and you should obtain expert advice before you enter it. Proceed with extreme caution. Such advice can help to reduce the risks or lessen the damage. Whilst it may appear that the interviewer has all the power, in fact the law provides important safeguards for the interviewee.
We have vast experience of advising and representing individuals who must attend compelled interviews. This enables us, in advance of your ordeal, to ensure that you receive adequate disclosure of interview themes and documents, to anticipate what is likely to be asked and to foresee and discuss with you, in a safe space, issues where you may be vulnerable to criticism. During the interview, we make sure that it is conducted fairly allowing you to give the best account of your conduct. After the interview, we make representations that may be helpful for you.
See here for a chapter in the GIR Guide to Global Investigations, “Representing Individuals in Interviews”, written by our partners, Jessica Parker and Andrew Smith which sets out in more detail the issues likely to be relevant.
- Representing and preparing individuals for numerous compelled interviews in criminal investigations conducted by the SFO into allegations of fraud and bribery; the FCA into allegations of insider dealing and market abuse; the NCA into allegations of breaches of financial sanctions and bribery; HMRC into allegations of tax fraud and money laundering; and the CMA into alleged cartels.
- Representing and preparing individuals for numerous compelled interviews in regulatory investigations conducted by the FCA into market misconduct, breaches of the Market Abuse Regulation and breaches of the FCA Handbook, and the CMA into various forms of anti-competitive behaviour.