JUVE Law Firm of the year

Compliance Audits and Investigations

Investigations hit the headlines

A series of scandals at financial institutions and industrial companies – including Deutsche Bank, Salzgitter and Rheinmetall – have dominated the headlines over the past year. Internal investigations, which are now practically a given following a scandal, are almost always conducted under an international spotlight, esp. in corruption cases and in the banking sector. Cooperation between investigating authorities is constantly improving as a result: for instance, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is even intervening in some hearings conducted by the German Public Prosecution Office in order to gain information which would otherwise not have been so easy to acquire.

Not much has changed in terms of legalities: at the end of 2014, the ISO standard 19600 set international standards for compliance management, thus standing in opposition to the IDW standard set by the Institute of Public Auditors in Germany. Following many years of discussions, economy ministers resolved to introduce a corruption register. And the legal loophole in the criminal punishment of overly generous contributions from the pharma industry to medical practitioners was closed. The need for advice to companies thus rose dramatically.

Large firms focus on international investigations

Due to the increasing number of investigations in urgent crises and the heightened awareness of business leaders that they are putting themselves and their companies at considerable risk if they do not have a functioning compliance system, the legal advisory market has had ample opportunity to take up a strategic stance: numerous practices in major law firms with pronounced international networks are concentrating on international investigations – largely due to the attractive hourly rates and utilization rates. Firms worth mentioning here include Baker & McKenzie, White & Case, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters. The only exception is Clifford Chance, which has recently focused more on preventive, rather than crisis-driven, advice.

Smaller outfits often assert their position in the market with an operational advisory approach, flexibility and manageable costs: AGS Acker Görling Schmalz, for instance, is proving to be successful with its own research and litigation teams for internal investigations. Moreover, Pohlmann & Company was appointed advisor to Petrobras in Brazil.

The Russian embargo lent momentum to firms with a strong foreign trade practice such as Oppenhoff & Partner, while work in classical compliance advice focusing on Russia at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher quietened down.

Compliance specialists become sought-after laterals

The fact that many firms are currently looking for compliance specialists means the personnel carousel is spinning faster than it has done in previous years: two founding partners left Pohlmann & Company at the same time (one going to a client and the other moving to Gleiss Lutz). Gleiss Lutz also brought on board an additional specialist from GSK Stockmann + Partner. Mayer Brown lost its most renowned figure when a respected partner moved to Dentons. This fate was shared by Willkie Farr & Gallagher: their compliance specialist became one of the founding partners at Reed Smith’s Frankfurt office. The two name partners of Knierim Huber – once a pioneer in compliance advice – went their separate ways in early 2016.


This chapter includes those firms which offer interdisciplinary advice and which are involved in reviewing or establishing compliance structures as preventive measures or which deal with serious allegations. A separate overview presents firms which have been primarily involved in a specific area of compliance work. Other firms that deal with individual compliance topics can be found in the chapter on ?white collar crime.

Firms which deal with compliance as part of their work in other practice areas, such as ?antitrust, ?IT (data protection), ?public procurement (esp. procurement bans), ?tax, ?corporate (managerial liability, due diligence), ?employment, ?banking and finance and ?insurance (regulatory) can be found in the corresponding chapters.

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