Bruce McMeekin is a senior corporate counsel who helps mitigate exposure to regulatory and criminal liability. He assists companies with reviewing current policies and procedures for compliance, and is a valuable resource when it comes to remediating deficiencies. In the event of an investigation or litigation, his 25 years’ experience as a corporate criminal and regulatory lawyer (a.k.a. white collar crime lawyer) makes him a formidable advocate.
Corporate regulatory liability maintains a unique status in Canada: if an organization through the actions or inactions of its employees violates a provision, it is exposed to conviction unless it can prove its innocence by establishing that it exercised “all reasonable care”.
But how do you define reasonable care? It is perhaps best understood by reference to its logical opposite: negligence. An organization can only be faulted for the wrongs of its employees if it was negligent in ensuring they complied with the law. Negligence is a measure of the conduct of the corporate leadership, often in comparison to what competitors have done to comply.
Reasonable care is akin to a triangle with all sides equally devoted to:
- reasonable compliance policies and procedures
- reasonable training and retraining
- reasonable supervision
What is reasonable is always a question of the circumstances, but paying adequate attention to all sides of this triangle can greatly reduce an organization’s exposure to criminal and regulatory liability.
A number of recent Supreme Court decisions have diminished (what formerly was) the large divide between corporate criminal and regulatory liability. For a number of criminal offences, corporate fault no longer requires an intention by the leadership to break the law – negligence exposes the organization to liability. Conversely, by exercising reasonable care a corporation can proactively shield itself from exposure to regulatory and criminal offences.
As a corporate criminal and regulatory lawyer, Bruce McMeekin has a wealth of experience in helping corporations minimize their risk and is frequently consulted about the effectiveness of corporate compliance programs. The best defence is a good offence, which in this context means having a robust compliance program already in place.
Bruce is also well versed in helping corporations respond to search and seizures, and to investigations into so-called white collar crime. That experience goes beyond simply advising as to their rights and obligations. Investigations can get complicated very quickly because they frequently involve law enforcement requests to interview multiple employees and management. Organizations must use caution when communicating such requests and when replying to employees and managers asking for advice on how they should respond.
Often there are options available to an organization that can avert a prosecution altogether, before charges are laid. For example, timely disclosure to law enforcement officers of information that exonerates the organization, or satisfying the Crown that a prosecution is not within the public interest. These options underscore the importance of getting counsel involved early in an investigation and not waiting until after charges have been laid.
If a prosecution does ensue, Bruce McMeekin is an experienced trial and search & seizure lawyer who focuses only on the issues that will help the client. He also frequently enters into fee arrangements that take into consideration cost-effectiveness for clients.