Originally Published in Corporate Counsel | February 29, 2016 | By Sue Reisinger
As chief litigation counsel at Statoil North America, Thomas Gottsegen oversees all of the multinational oil and gas company’s internal investigations. On Wednesday, he will be in Houston to speak about best practices for internal probes at the Corporate Litigation Executive Roundtable, sponsored by the Consero Group.
In an interview on the eve of the speaking engagement, Gottsegen offered a glimpse into how he approaches investigations.
Think Big Picture: Gottsegen says that probes aren’t just about dealing with a particular problem. Often, they can help spur cultural change. “If we have fallen short of a law or regulation, then it is absolutely critical for us to make improvements to avoid such problems in the future,” he says.
Don’t shy away from wrongdoing. Gottsegen says he never allows a concern for litigation to “dictate the scope or nature of an investigation.” Sweeping things under the rug is counterproductive, he says. “Any shortcoming is identified and revealed in the report.”
Be mindful of attorney-client privilege: Gottsegen says it’s also critical to approach such investigations “with the heightened sensitivity of potential litigation, taking very careful steps to make sure it is carried out under the banner of attorney-client privilege.” Gottsegen acknowledges that there are times, despite claims of privilege, that a court will allow the report to end up in an adversary’s hands. And, he adds, there are times when his company voluntarily shares its report with the government in an effort to be transparent. “Sometimes it’s just the right thing to do,” he says. “We consider our ethical and compliance obligations.”
An invite-only event, the Consero roundtable is being attended by senior in-house lawyers from across the country. Gottsegen’s panel’s topic is “Internal Investigations: From Crisis Management to Cultural Change.” There will also be panel discussions about managing cybersecurity litigation and bettering relationships with outside counsel.
Marty Lundstrom, an assistant general counsel at Charming Charlie, a global fashion jeweler based in Houston, says she is attending the roundtable to explore best practices.
“We are a relatively small shop and only 10 years old,” Lundstrom says. “I’m looking for what you can do on a reasonable scale to be efficient in your litigation management, and for cost savers in general.”
Privacy and cybersecurity litigation looms huge for her “in light of data security breaches that have gone on in much larger stores than ours, like Target,” she says. “Minimizing that risk for us is our biggest focus for 2016.”