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What do you do if served with a civil investigative subpoena or demand from the Attorney General's Office?

Posted by Clyde Hutchins | Jul 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

Often, a company's first contact with the Attorney General's Office is when it is served with a subpoena (sometimes called a civil investigative demand.) The subpoena may require that the company provide a witness to be interviewed or it may request copies of documents. The subpoena will have a deadline to respond. The deadline could be a few weeks out or even a month or two. When served with such a subpoena, it is best not to ignore it. There are serious consequences for failing to respond to a subpoena. The assistance of a law firm is very helpful in dealing with such a subpoena.

The first thing to determine when served with a subpoena is whether your company is the target of the investigation. Most of the time this can be determined from the wording of the subpoena. If your company is the target of the investigation, that means that staff in the Attorney General's Office believes that your company violated the law, usually some type of state consumer protection law. There may be some clues in the wording of the subpoena that will alert you as to the nature of the possible violation. The Attorney General's Office is most likely attempting to find out more details about the activities that led to the violation or obtaining information and documents that will be used in a civil suit against the company.

If your company is the target of the investigation, then you should attempt to ascertain whether your company did indeed violate the law. If so, you should determine the scope of the violation and take what steps you can to cure the violation and any consumer harm flowing from it. You should also consider the potential penalties and adverse actions that could be taken against the company.

The company should ensure that it protects its interests in responding to the subpoena. There are a few options to challenge and block a subpoena. State law provides some grounds for challenging a subpoena. Challenges are typically made by filing an appropriate motion in state court.

If your company is not the target of the investigation, then you can breath a little easier. The Attorney General's Office probably has no interest in your company and is simply obtaining some background information about the actual target of the investigation from your company. In that case, it is a good idea to consider whether your company's involvement with the target company could lead to the Attorney General's Office concluding that your company might also bear some responsibility for the alleged violation. You should also consider what type of confidentiality requirements your company might have with regard to the target company's information.

Harmony Law can assist you if served with a civil investigative subpoena or demand. Please feel free to call Harmony Law if you receive a subpoena.

About the Author

Clyde Hutchins

Clyde Hutchins is the founder of Harmony Law. Prior to opening Harmony Law, Mr. Hutchins worked in the Wyoming Attorney General's Office for several years where he developed a strong consumer protection enforcement unit. In that position he led over 120 investigations and enforcement actions under the Consumer Protection Act. He worked on numerous joint cases with the Federal Trade Commission and other states, including Colorado, on consumer protection matters. Mr. Hutchins is also a contributing author to Consumer Protection Law Developments, Second Edition. Previous to his work in the Attorney General's Office, Mr. Hutchins was in private practice in Anchorage, Alaska where he was the chief litigator for a firm. Mr. Hutchins represented municipalities on various matters. Mr. Hutchins provided counsel to businesses and investment advisors regarding compliance with securities laws. He was also a bond lawyer and worked on municipal financing matters. Prior to that, Mr. Hutchins practiced civil litigation with a law firm in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Mr. Hutchins devotes his spare time to his family, traveling and enjoying the great outdoors.

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Harmony Law is one of the few law firms in Colorado and Wyoming that focuses on consumer law. Mr. Hutchins is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates and state chair for Wyoming. If you have a consumer law issue, please feel free to call 970-488-1857 and speak with Mr. Hutchins.

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