Mary Jo White-Led Crisis Response Group Signals Focus on Compliance Complexity

As more and more companies navigate high-profile events that pose compliance challenges and negative reactions from shareholders, the stakes have become prohibitive for corporate leaders and boards.

The first phone call an embattled CEO may want to make is to AmLaw 100 law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, which recently formed a special crisis response group led by none other than former Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White, who returned as a partner at Debevoise in February 2017 after serving a four-year team as head of the SEC.

The intent of the crisis group appears to leverage unique expertise to provide swift deployment to avert legal and reputational harm, while addressing the precipitating causes of the crisis.

“The group is comprised of six ‘crisis teams’ with partners across the globe that can respond to financial and securities problems, corporate investigations and cybersecurity incidents, among other issues,” the New York Law Journal reported.

The six teams are focused on: financial and securities; corporate investigations and international corruption; parallel civil litigation; cybersecurity and privacy; sensitive and personal allegations; and monitorships. The group brings together a “deeply experienced global team to help organizations and boards navigate their most critical issues by anticipating and responding to problems and investigations with strategic defenses and solutions,” Debevoise said in a statement.

The firm’s crisis response group underscores the need for companies to take a proactive approach in handling potential shareholder and/or compliance and regulatory backlash. The group’s formation also signals a focus on the complexity of compliance, along with the rash of recent high-profile companies that have had to publicly wrestle with tough — and in some cases unexpected — events including Yahoo, United Continental and Wells Fargo, to name a few.

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