News & Insights


December 8, 2023

General Counsel’s Decision Tree for Internal Investigations for the Automotive Industry

Vehicle manufacturers, engine manufacturers, equipment suppliers, technology developers and others in the automotive space regularly encounter situations that may require an internal review or investigation following a government inquiry or concerns raised internally or through a third party. These range from industry-specific concerns – such as those related to compliance with regulatory requirements – to more general concerns, including compliance with bribery and corruption statutes such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), data breaches, whistleblower complaints, risks introduced by the use of third parties and human resources issues. Although a robust compliance program can help avoid many problems, not all issues that arise can be foreseen or avoided. This internal investigations playbook is designed to facilitate the identification and remediation of issues and complement a well-designed and functioning compliance program; it also promotes the in-house team’s communications with outside counsel, who have a range of experience guiding companies through precarious situations.

Adherence to a well-crafted playbook helps companies meet the expectations of enforcement authorities, such as:

  • S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • California Air Resources Board
  • S. Customs and Border Protection
  • Department of Justice
  • Securities and Exchange Commission
  • State attorneys general
  • S. Department of Transportation and its sub-agencies such as NHTSA and FMCSA
  • National Transportation Safety Board

As new technology emerges, and as consumer issues loom large, the broader automotive industry also finds itself dealing with a new set of regulators, such as:

  • Federal Trade Commission
  • Federal Communications Commission
  • Food and Drug Administration

The authors of this Playbook include former EPA lawyers who have experience guiding automotive companies through all aspects of complex investigations initiated by many of the agencies listed above and that include criminal prosecution, reputational risk, Congressional testimony, Board-led internal investigations, citizen and consumer litigation, and shareholder lawsuits. Please reach out if you would like to discuss any of the topics or steps covered in the Playbook.