PRACTICE AREA

Individual Accountability

"Head and shoulders above the competition." "Widely praised as one of the best recognised firms in the UK for white-collar crime."

THE LEGAL 500 2022

Advising individuals in challenging circumstances has been at the heart of what Corker Binning has done for over two decades.

These individuals come from diverse sectors and backgrounds, but they share one common feature – they are being asked to account for things they have done and will be held accountable for their actions, either against a legal framework or against professional or ethical standards specific to their line of work. Individuals come to us because they seek our advice on how best to navigate a complex and stressful process, the ground rules of which may be unfamiliar to them, and where the legal and reputational consequences of getting it wrong are far-reaching.

A common method of holding individuals accountable is the interview. Compelled interviews are a feature or regulatory and civil proceedings. Internal interviews of individuals conducted by the corporate employer are a typical feature of many private corporate investigations. How an individual performs in this type of interview is often considered when deciding whether to take disciplinary action against the individual or self-report to law enforcement.

Individuals are increasingly held accountable through other processes. For example, public inquiries are a common means of ascertaining the facts and making judgments about the conduct of individuals in matters of public importance. Individuals face a similar form of public scrutiny if they are compelled or asked to give evidence at a Parliamentary Select Committee tasked with examining a particular issue. Individuals may also be compelled or asked to give evidence in coroner-led inquests to establish the circumstances of a person’s death. Each of these processes operates according to distinct procedures.

We have also advised individual witnesses in civil proceedings where the subject matter overlaps with criminal/regulatory proceedings into the same underlying facts, or where the individual faces a risk of self-incrimination in England or overseas. This work extends to advising individuals giving evidence in depositions in civil requests from overseas authorities.

We also advise individuals contemplating whistleblowing claims and working with employment and other specialist lawyers to present their disclosures in a way that lawfully minimises their personal exposure.

Adverse findings from these and other processes can lead to applications for disqualification of directors under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986. Our experience extends to contesting these applications in the High Court.

Advising individuals in these diverse processes requires a forensic ability to marshal complicated fact patterns, to gather instructions from a client who may not find it easy to explain clearly what happened, and to help the client to find the best way of presenting their account to the authorities or fact-finding body. Clients can often be intimidated and unprepared for what can sometimes be a confrontational experience. It is essential to be well prepared and advised. Equally it is unwise for individuals not to consider how engagement in the current process will have ramifications for different processes that may be initiated in the future. For example, the individual who gives evidence in a public inquiry without being advised – and therefore without preparation – how this evidence could be used in a subsequent investigation will inevitably be disadvantaged.

We have made the representation of individuals the cornerstone of what we do. We are independent and conflict-free. Our long history of advising individuals in a variety of challenging contexts means we can offer holistic advice based on our direct experience of how individual accountability operates in practice.

 

Individual Accountability cases: