Assisting clients in the present and anticipating the future

2022 is a pivotal year

We are going through unprecedented crises requiring a major evolution of our society. One of King & Spalding’s strengths is to be at the side of our client in this context.

So far, more than 330m people have contracted the Covid-19 virus, all variants combined, and at least 6m have died. Our economies have been disrupted, and ideological differences and divisions have been intensified at times. We have experienced phases of unprecedented confinement, shortages of goods, dramas, absurd situations, deep fears and collective hysteria, but also unique and intense moments of solidarity.

Each state has reacted in its own way, by considering the cultural specificities of its population and electoral perspectives rather than taking a global and collective approach. National and international reactions have been marked by selfish interests which have caused division instead of unity among peoples and nations.

In parallel to this pandemic, multipolar tensions have been heightened to an extent that it is in no doubt that today we are not just in the midst of a complex and multi-polarised economic war, but also in the midst of a new form of cold war, where the arms race rubs shoulders with the daily threats of invasions and open wars (the Russian threat on Ukraine, the People’s Republic of China ready to invade Taiwan, the arms race between North and South Korea, the crisis in the Middle East, etc).

Not a day goes by without us all hearing about military violations of sea or air space and interceptions. Not a day goes by without an article on new weapons technology, new deployments of official troops or states sponsored mercenaries – as illustrated by the deployment of the Wagner Group over the past few months in Mali. Not a month goes by without new terrorist attacks.

Moreover, the irreversible degradation of our planet, the growing effects of global warming and the acceleration of the sixth mass extinction are more than ever at the heart of all discussions and of all developments. We see the everyday effects not only in the projections on the water and supply crisis but also in the emergence of new migratory crises.

Finally, our era is also marked by the acceleration of the development of new technologies, an acceleration that is supersonic and more and more privatised, especially for the conquest of space.

Not only are we going to experience a revolution in our working methods and in our modes of transport, but also the development of artificial parallel universes (the Metaverse) or the development of our cerebral and cognitive faculties, via the cerebral implantation of connected technologies (like those developed by Elon Musk via Neuralink). We are entering the era of the ‘augmented’ human, connected to the virtual, using cryptocurrencies and moving in vehicles closer to the drone than to the flying car we dreamed of in our childhood.

We are entering an era of challenges

The first of these challenges, as it has already been pointed out, is to survive the human and economic consequences of the pandemic, by adapting jobs, flows, investment policies and the strategic positioning of each of them according to the new paradigm.

Numerous consultants have assisted in these redeployments and in the identification of new emerging risks.

These strategic redeployments, were necessary to survive an unprecedented health crisis, against a backdrop of a globally degraded and tense geopolitical situation, the emergence of self-regulating parallel financial systems and the birth of unsuspected technologies that will revolutionise the way of life of hundreds of millions of people.

From this new situation and from those new universes, new crimes are likely to emerge as well as new ways of committing and suffering from them.

We must be prepared for this.

Also, we will have to adapt our laws and in particular our repressive norms to the specificities of blockchain, design tools to protect our companies from financial crimes that will be committed in those parallel universes or via these wonderful technologies, train investigators, magistrates and lawyers in the specifics of those new domains.

It is with this in mind that the entire King & Spalding team is trained in these technologies, sets up legal monitoring to keep abreast of any legal developments in this area and is ready to guide you in these new challenges.

This anticipation should not make us forget the complexity of current crises.

This projection into the future does not make us forget the present and the assistance we owe to our clients in this period of transition, where our economic world is already profoundly impacted.

We assist our clients in the criminal proceedings they are facing, and therefore in ongoing crises, as well as in anticipating criminal risk or in clearing up criminal situations.

The development and conduct of criminal prosecutions, the implementation of defence strategies, audits, internal and international investigations are the heart of our expertise, and we can deploy in over 160 countries.

More than ever, financial investigations conducted by financial prosecutors or regulators are international, cross-sectoral and complex. They require an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the underlying issues, ie the areas affected by criminal proceedings.

Despite the very domestic nature of criminal regulations, prosecutors and national regulators have recently learned to work together across borders and to share and co-ordinate their actions, for example with the emergence of an international prosecutor’s office: the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (the EPPO), which is the first independent and decentralised prosecution office of the EU. Since 1 June 2021, the EPPO has been responsible for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to judgment crimes against the financial interests of the EU and has opened more than 500 investigations.

International judicial co-operation has never been so powerful, specific and effective since it is based on international or bilateral treaties.

The international co-ordination of lawyers, working in a network or within an international law firm, is therefore more essential than ever.

King & Spalding’s special matters and government investigation expertise

In this respect, King & Spalding is unique regarding the composition of its teams and their co-ordination.

One of the firm’s three practice areas – namely government matters – includes a special Matters and government investigations division. This division is supported by several hundred lawyers within the firm, spread across the US, Europe and Asia.

These include dozens of former prosecutors, the former director of the Criminal Division of the US Department of Justice (DoJ), attorneys identified as top criminal litigators in each office, and former executives and managers of specialised agencies (the FBI, CIA, and various regulators and investigative agencies).

The firm also relies on a formidable external network of recognised professionals and regularly calls on colleagues when the client has a specific issue.

All these technicians, experienced in sensitive and cross-border cases, have for decades offered sectoral expertise, advice and vision facing the most complex regulatory, enforcement and compliance challenges and thus the ‘demining’ of major crises.

The Paris office, opened in 2009, has had a specialised team in corporate criminal law and international investigations since 2020. This team, integrated into the special matters and government investigations group, is composed of six lawyers, a senior consultant (former sub-officer in the French Gendarmerie), an intern and a dedicated assistant. We specialise in assisting our clients at all stages of the criminal process, notably before any crisis.

The best defence is indeed always to anticipate the criminal risk and neutralise it before any crisis.

One of our priorities is to adapting to the complexity of cases by building multidisciplinary teams that work together and are capable of deploying and co-ordinating quickly.

Anticipation is based on a good knowledge of the regulations, but also on the capacity to adapt to the specificities of the company being assisted. Before making recommendations, we must know how to listen. No criminal risk prevention action can be effectively deployed without being built with the company’s legal and compliance department.

The firm also offers one of the most effective teams in the field of internal and international investigations (with expertise already developed in the past few years, currently further expanding, including in Africa) and criminal business law.

As such, the team can be deployed around the world to collect and analyse data, conduct hearings and identify the reality and scope of facts that may constitute offences. This expertise is essential in the process of assessing risks and identifying corrective measures to be implemented before any crisis, but also in the context of ongoing proceedings before prosecutors or regulators, in support of negotiations.

One of the main characteristics that distinguishes King & Spalding from many of our high-quality competitors is the composition of our teams: lawyers and consultants who have a thorough knowledge of the jurisdictions, regulators or administrations, and who put this expertise to work in order to find the best possible solutions for our clients. Another key point is undoubtedly our ability to build around each client and each issue, an international and multidisciplinary team tailored to the client’s needs.