Archives: Congressional Investigations

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D.C. Circuit’s McGahn Ruling Eliminates Key House Option for Subpoena Enforcement

On Monday, August 31, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upended more than a decade of lower court precedent and concluded—at least for the moment—that the U.S. House of Representatives may not seek civil enforcement of subpoenas.  In Committee on the Judiciary v. McGahn, the court dismissed the case for lack … Continue Reading

The Supreme Court’s Mazars Decision Contains a Significant Suggestion That Congress May Be Bound by the Attorney-Client Privilege in Congressional Investigations

Understandably, much of the commentary following the release of the Supreme Court’s blockbuster decision in Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP has focused on the impact of the Court’s ruling on the long-running quest for the President’s tax returns and other financial records.  Buried in the Court’s opinion, however, is an easily overlooked aside regarding the … Continue Reading

D.C. Circuit Rules Obstruction of Office of Congressional Ethics Not a Crime, but Questions and Risks Remain

In a unanimous ruling, the D.C. Circuit shed new light this week on the applicability of key federal criminal statutes on proceedings before the Office of Congressional Ethics (“OCE”).  While largely removing the prospect of criminal obstruction liability for parties responding to inquiries from OCE, the court’s opinion is another reminder of the potentially serious … Continue Reading

Congressional Pandemic Oversight Bodies Begin to Take Shape

As we reported in our prior client advisory on the wave of investigations to follow the pandemic, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act established three new bodies to conduct oversight and investigations on pandemic-related issues. Separately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a special committee to conduct additional pandemic-related oversight. In recent weeks, … Continue Reading

House Leaders Push Ahead with Proposal for Virtual Oversight

Last month, we highlighted congressional efforts to ensure that Congress is able to continue conducting the business of the American people during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. After weeks of halting progress, those efforts took an important step forward this morning with the release of a proposed resolution that would temporarily modify the House rules to enable remote … Continue Reading

GAO Set To Launch Flurry of COVID-19 Related Audits

The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”), often referred to as Congress’ watchdog, is ramping up its oversight activities in preparation for an influx of investigations into fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement of funds distributed in Congress’s $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”). The GAO recently signaled its intent to investigate a … Continue Reading

Congressional Paper Hearings: The Future or The Past?

Congressional leaders are actively exploring ways to continue the work of Congress as the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold.  Currently, Congress is not able to have live, in-person hearings, which are the primary tool for conducting oversight of both the private sector and the executive branch.  With existing oversight investigations still underway—and the recent establishment … Continue Reading

Congress Creates New Oversight Functions for Coronavirus Relief

Although a final version of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is not yet available, based on what we know so far, it appears that the legislation will include the provisions described below establishing oversight functions for the use of stimulus and bailout funds.  According to a number of sources, the bill … Continue Reading

Interacting with the Government During the Pandemic: Compliance Blind Spots for Corporations and Executives

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 … Continue Reading

Drug Pricing Investigations in the 116th Congress

Consistent with popular predictions and our prior posts, Congress made drug pricing a key item on its investigative agenda in the first year of the 116th Congress.  Several factors contributed to the uptick in congressional drug pricing oversight activity, including the elevation of new Democratic chairs in the House with longstanding interests in drug pricing … Continue Reading

Congressional Investigations and the Rules of the 116th Congress

With Congress heavily engaged in launching and pursuing new congressional investigations, particularly since the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives, many of our clients have questions regarding the rules that govern congressional investigations. While many aspects of congressional investigations are not subject to any rules at all, the House, Senate, and their respective committees … Continue Reading

Congressional Investigations After the Midterm Elections

Brian Smith delivered the following remarks during Covington’s post-election conference call with clients on November 8, 2018. “Restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump administration.”  That’s what Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi promised in her speech after the elections. Congressional oversight and investigations thrive in divided government, and Democratic leaders are already promising a … Continue Reading

Are You Ready For Your Congressional Investigation?

If the current polls and predictions are accurate, the Democratic party is poised to take control of the House of Representatives next year, for the first time since 2010.  Congressional investigations thrive in divided government, and Democratic leaders in Congress are already promising a new wave of investigations. My new article in Law360 examines the … Continue Reading

Covington Issues Updated Investigations Manual for House and Senate Chiefs of Staff

Covington today issued the third edition of its Chiefs of Staff manual on handling investigations of Members of Congress and Congressional staff.  The manual was originally published in 2014, but has been updated twice since then.  The new third edition includes some of the latest available statistics and examples.  This manual is intended to advise … Continue Reading

House of Representatives Seeks to Strengthen Subpoena Enforcement Dramatically

In late October, the House of Representatives quietly approved a bill that would dramatically strengthen Congress’s procedures for enforcing congressional subpoenas.  In adopting the bill, the bipartisan leadership of the House Judiciary Committee highlighted the challenges that Congress faces in obtaining materials from executive branch agencies.  Significant portions of the bill, however, apply to all … Continue Reading

Rep. Gowdy Plans Deeper Oversight

The new chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Representative Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), outlined his plans for the Committee last week.  As we expected, Mr. Gowdy said that he would pursue more methodical investigations.  Noting that hearings are “an inefficient way to gather facts,” Mr. Gowdy said that the Committee would pursue … Continue Reading

Grassley Defends Congressional Oversight; House Democrats Turn to Statutory Oversight Authority

The Trump administration’s efforts to curtail congressional oversight of executive branch agencies by individual Members of Congress, including ranking Democratic Members of Committees, ran into significant opposition from an unlikely source:  Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Sen. Grassley’s strong reaction is consistent with his role as perhaps Congress’s … Continue Reading

The Gowdy Era of Congressional Investigations

With the announcement by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) that he plans to resign from Congress on June 30, it appears increasingly likely that Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) will become the next Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the House’s powerful watchdog committee that has very broad investigative jurisdiction.  Although a final … Continue Reading

D.C. Circuit Dismisses Major Case Concerning Attorney-Client Privilege in Congressional Investigations

The long saga of the legal challenge by Carl Ferrer, CEO of Backpage, to a subpoena issued by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (“PSI”) appears to have reached a conclusion.  A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit this week dismissed the case as moot and additionally vacated a … Continue Reading

What To Expect When You Weren’t Expecting A Congressional Investigation

Congressional investigations are rare, but for corporations, they are not quite “black swan” events that are impossible to predict.  For companies in high profile, controversial, or highly regulated industries, they are more like “gray swan” events.  They happen often enough that you can and should plan for them.  We’ve published an article that helps you … Continue Reading

The Latest Twist in the Backpage Litigation and its Implications for the Attorney-Client Privilege in Congressional Investigations

Litigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to enforce a subpoena for documents from Carl Ferrer, the CEO of Backpage, an online forum accused of contributing to sex trafficking, has taken another interesting twist, with the D.C. District Court ruling that Backpage cannot assert the attorney-client privilege to protect certain documents.  It is rare … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Refuses to Stay Senate Subpoena, Highlights the Difficulties Inherent in Challenging a Congressional Subpoena

The Supreme Court today refused to block a subpoena by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the online forum Backpage and its CEO Carl Ferrer.  As we previously reported, Ferrer lost at the District Court in his effort to block the Senate subpoena, arguing primarily that the subpoena abridged his First Amendment rights.  Ferrer … Continue Reading

The Senate’s District Court Win in the Backpage Subpoena Fight Could Have Significant Implications for Congressional Investigations

Last week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in a rare case that has the potential to contribute significantly to the case law concerning congressional investigations. It is uncommon for a federal court to have an opportunity to rule on a congressional … Continue Reading

Ethics Enforcement in the 114th Congress

The notion that the House and Senate Ethics Committees are inactive bodies, often implied in media coverage, is far from the truth. During the previous Congress, the House Ethics Committee issued more than 900 formal advisory opinions and addressed more than 40,000 informal requests for guidance.  In the first half of the 113th Congress alone, … Continue Reading
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