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Chambers USA 2013 - Environmental

Crisis Management

Baker Botts helps clients respond to natural disasters, accidental releases of hazardous substances, fires and explosions and other crises. We provide advice during every phase of accident response, including: containing the crisis, coordinating responses to investigations, resolving resulting penalties and personal injury liabilities and bringing suit against insurers and contractors or other third parties that contributed to the accident. We also help obtain emergency authorizations from regulatory agencies to continue to operate or to authorize excess emissions after accidents and natural disasters.

In many crises, a number of agencies participate in the investigation. A chemical accident could involve the National Transportation Safety Board, EPA, OSHA, and even the U.S. Coast Guard and other state agencies, depending on the accident location. A company responding to a crisis can find itself in the middle of an agency “turf war” that can fuel an already inflammatory situation.

We have extensive experience working with federal and state regulators on a wide array of environmental, safety, security and transportation issues, and we help broker these cross-jurisdictional issues and develop a coordinated response to all stakeholders.

Internal Investigations
Working closely with our criminal and civil litigation and environmental and health and safety lawyers, we represent corporations and corporate officials, as well as lawyers, accountants and other individuals in connection with a variety of government and internal investigations concerning business conduct and practices. Our professionals have government and private-sector experience working with federal law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Congress on investigative matters. We advise clients through every phase, including relations with the government, with witnesses and with issues of publicity and public disclosures. We negotiate global resolutions of issues under investigation, often involving regulatory bodies in addition to the Department of Justice and other prosecutorial offices.

Our experience conducting external corporate investigations allows us to work with a number of constituencies, including inside counsel, auditors, company leadership and government officials. We pinpoint vulnerable areas and advise clients on how best to disclose information to the public and shareholders, particularly in light of various government voluntary disclosure programs. 

The tactics of a criminal investigation – including grand jury subpoenas, search warrants, undercover informants, unannounced visits from law enforcement agents and even wiretaps – are unfamiliar and unsettling to most companies and individuals, but can themselves lead to criminal penalties when handled unwisely. In many criminal prosecutions, the government targets corporate officers perceived to be aware of alleged improper activities (such as the unauthorized dumping or discharge of pollutants), regardless of whether they knew these activities violated environmental requirements.

Our White Collar Criminal Defense Practice includes lawyers who have handled hundreds of criminal investigations and tried dozens of white collar criminal cases before juries. Among our lawyers are the former chief of the Department of Justice’s Fraud Section and lawyers who have served in the Deputy Attorney General’s office as well as offices of United States Attorneys. We have represented corporations, corporate executives, public officials, union leaders, lawyers, accountants and many others in investigations covering allegations such as securities fraud, procurement fraud, accounting fraud, foreign corrupt practices, antitrust violations, tax fraud, bribery, price manipulation, bank fraud, money laundering, export controls violations and others.

Prevention and Planning
Compliance counseling forms the backbone of our environmental and safety practices and our lawyers represent a first line of defense in preventing crises from arising or keeping a minor crisis from escalating. In addition to counseling on questions of regulatory interpretation, we assist in developing comprehensive compliance programs, risk-management plans, release reporting procedures and emergency response plans. Our lawyers conduct in-house training programs to ensure employees understand corporate environmental policies and applicable regulatory requirements. In addition, we advise clients on preparing procedures for inspections and searches so employees can respond to investigations without compromising company rights and privileges. We also help analyze existing or changing risks associated with particular operations. Strong risk management and crisis management planning help prevent crises before they occur and contain unexpected ones that may arise.

Substantive Experience
Our Environmental Practice is one of the largest and broadest in the country. We combine decades of experience and a wide array of skills to help solve environmental and health and safety challenges. We represent clients in every significant aspect of regulatory counseling, strategic permitting, litigation, legislative matters, rulemaking, criminal investigations, corporate crises, civil enforcement, contaminated site remediation and business transactions.

We assist in resolving issues arising in all media (air, water and waste) and under every major environmental statute and regulatory program. We have formed client coalitions that utilize effective advocacy, both in court and before regulatory agencies and have built strong relationships with those entities.

Our health and safety team includes lawyers experienced in OSHA and process safety management issues. We advise clients on investigating incidents and near misses, analyzing hazards, auditing compliance with regulatory requirements and assessing performance. We have a well-established reputation for working hand in hand with clients, regulators and other stakeholders on these matters.

We offer clients counseling on homeland and national security issues and corporate risk management. The Global Security and Corporate Risk Counseling Practice includes professionals with homeland security experience who have worked at high levels of the White House, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and other federal agencies. We provide advice to businesses as well as their directors, officers and managers, that enable them to minimize liability exposure, maximize efficiencies and productivity, mitigate or eliminate vulnerabilities and maintain business continuity and legal compliance. Our lawyers also advise clients on government investigations and matters involving federal law enforcement, crisis and contingency planning and homeland security regulations and programs. Whether a threat arises from an industrial accident, an act of terrorism, pandemics, or weather related phenomena, it is critical to have an emergency response and contingency plan in place. Our professionals have experience dealing with man-made and natural disasters, and our lawyers “wrote the book” on lessons learned in preparing and responding to such catastrophic events.

Our Transportation Practice encompasses a range of legal, safety and policy issues across all segments of the transportation industry, including aviation, maritime, pipelines, rail, transit, trucking and hazardous materials. We are familiar with Homeland Security issues that impact the transportation industry. We coordinate legal and policy responses to major corporate problems involving potential civil and criminal penalties, risk of serious injury or loss of life, or major economic damage that threatens the viability of the enterprise. Our combination of federal and state government relations capabilities is a fundamental component of the advice we provide and distinguishes Baker Botts from other law firms.