Our client was under investigation for serious tax and white-collar crimes. The experience of the Wellfleet Strategies team planned for the possibility of, and prevented, the story from leaking to the media, which would have caused immense damage to our client’s reputation, personal life and business endeavors. The charges against our client were ultimately dropped.
Key Tactics & Services Leveraged
We represented a well-known Forbes 400 billionaire who was targeted by the IRS and the U.S. Department of Justice for various tax issues and white-collar crimes. Our client learned that he was under investigation when he was visited by two IRS special agents at his Los Angeles hotel room wanting to interview him. He immediately contacted his CFO, who, in concert with his corporate lawyers, retained us to represent him in the investigation.
We immediately sprung into action, gathering the facts and conducting extensive interviews of the parties involved. We then assembled an expert team of accountants and lawyers. Communicating that we would aggressively defend our client, we ultimately convinced the IRS and the Department of Justice to not file charges.
More Than Just Legal Issues
While our aggressive legal strategy was effective, we knew that this was only half of the project that laid before us. Protecting our client’s reputation was of critical importance – he was in the twilight of an enormously successful business career and enjoyed a pristine reputation. Even though the charges were never filed, harm to his reputation could do irreparable financial harm to him and to his business.
We engaged in a customized and sophisticated campaign designed to deftly manage the crisis and protect his reputation. First, we determined who the inner circle should be – those people among his family, friends, colleagues, and staff who should be aware of the investigation and kept apprised of its developments. We determined that the inner circle should be very few people, limited strictly to those who needed to know. Our strategy was based on our experience – we knew that the federal government would be extremely discreet about the investigation. As a result, the inner circle was strictly limited to only those family members, staff members, accountants, and lawyers who would be involved in responding to summonses and subpoenas or involved in defending him in the investigation with the goal of keeping him from getting charged.
Effective Media Strategies
The next step was to evaluate the possibility of leaks, determine where those leaks were likely to occur, and develop a response strategy in the event that a leak should occur. We decided that New York, Los Angeles, and our client’s home city and state were the locations where the media would likely pick up a leak and report the investigation. From there, we then diligently vetted a number of firms in all three cities to ensure that we would have local representation from the highest possible professionals with deep media connections. We built a high-powered media team that was briefed and ready to respond on a moment’s notice.
The investigation lasted 38 months, during which time no leaks occurred. However, 33 months into the investigation, our client was contacted by a nationally-known financial publication wanting to do a feature piece on his long and successful career. The piece was supposed to be purely positive, but we were concerned that the writer would stumble upon the investigation during the course of his research. We first declined to an interview and politely asked them not to run the story.
When the publication informed us that they intended to run the story regardless, we then shifted to our secondary strategy. We had one of our communications persons develop a relationship with the writer and work with him closely. We were, therefore, able to influence who the writer spoke to and limit the risk that he would become aware of the investigation. The strategy worked – the writer never became aware of the investigation and the publication ran a very favorable piece on our client. In response, a number of other publications decided to do similar stories. We employed the same strategy and were able to convert a potential disaster into a very positive public relations campaign.
Our need-to-know approach kept the investigation out of the media, but we were ready to respond if the media got involved. Forward-thinking and steady guidance helped our client escape the investigation with his reputation and career intact.