The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are reverberating in every sector of the global economy, from life sciences to transportation, retail to manufacturing, financial services to sports and entertainment. As federal, state, and local governments attempt to blunt the pandemic’s public health and economic effects, many companies are frantically working with government to seek the help they believe they need to survive these trying times and to preserve their employees’ jobs. In addition, companies with products or services that could assist with the government’s response to the crisis are considering ways to contract with government agencies. As a consequence, many companies are more deeply engaged with government officials than ever before, including by seeking financial loans, grants, contracts, product approvals, regulatory relief, or guidance on how to operate in these times.
But the basic rules covering interactions with government – including lobbying, government ethics, campaign finance, bribery, and fraud laws – all remain in place. And, as with prior economic and national security emergencies, heightened enforcement of these laws is likely to follow the current crisis. As a result, companies that cut compliance corners now may pay a price down the road.
This alert identifies some common areas of political law compliance risk to keep in mind, as companies engage with government concerning the COVID-19 crisis.