White Collar and Investigations

For almost five decades, Munger, Tolles & Olson has been at the cutting edge of the white collar and investigative practices in the social and economic issues of the time, from cold war to financial, environmental and human catastrophes. The firm has investigated and successfully defended businesses and individuals against the gamut of white collar charges, including securities, accounting, tax and election fraud; insider trading; bribery; false claims; theft of intellectual property; catastrophic oil spills and fires; aviation, aerospace, and industrial accidents; and criminal antitrust violations.

The group draws upon the experience of highly regarded white collar litigators, including former federal prosecutors with outstanding credentials in investigations and trial.

The firm pioneered the practice of immediately gathering, assessing, and presenting evidence to government investigators — meeting early, often, and in depth, with prosecutors, resulting in repeated highly successful outcomes. We were instrumental in the creation of the federal guidelines granting corporations credit for sharing investigative results. Where resolution is not possible, we take cases to trial and win. The firm brings to this practice the same commitment to hard work, creativity, and outstanding presentations that have always been the hallmarks of Munger, Tolles & Olson.

MTO represents clients under investigation or facing charges in federal and state courts and related administrative proceedings throughout the United States. We interact with the main and regional offices of the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Transportation Safety Board, and countless other state and federal agencies. In an increasing global economy, we represent clients under criminal investigation in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America.

When it comes to internal investigation, firm chair Brad Brian and partner Lisa Demsky wrote the book: “Internal Corporate Investigations” (ABA, 4th Ed., 2017). The firm has conducted hundreds of internal investigations in the United States and around the world, on behalf of Fortune 500 and smaller companies. As circumstances require, the firm represents the company itself or independent committees of the board.

Representative Matters

High Profile

  • Pacific Gas & Electric in criminal investigations and charges arising out of catastrophic wildfires
    • Dixie Fire (one of the largest in California history). Handled investigation and negotiations resulting in declination of all charges.
    • Kincade Fire. Handled investigation and preliminary hearing, resulting in stipulated judgment dismissing all charges.
    • Zogg Fire. Handled investigation and preliminary hearing, resulting in order dismissing most charges, followed by stipulated judgment dismissing all remaining charges.
  • Santa Anita Racetrack in a criminal investigation by a Los Angeles District Attorney Task Force relating to highly publicized equine deaths, resulting in a public report finding no criminal conduct by the racetrack.
  • Virgin Galactic in internal investigation and government investigations relating to the crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.
  • Transocean, operator of the Deepwater Horizon, in numerous criminal and civil investigation and proceedings arising from the April 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Negotiated favorable misdemeanor plea and obtained successful trial verdict in federal multidistrict litigation, preserving company’s entitlement to full indemnity against all losses.

Aerospace, Defense and Government Services

  • Bechtel National Inc. (BNI), in defending against federal criminal charges of false billings in the clean-up of a massive nuclear waste project. MTO resolved the case through a civil settlement.
  • Lawrence Livermore National Lab in an investigation by DOE-OIG into allegations of time-charging fraud and a related False Claims Act action brought by a former design physicist at the lab.
  • Northrop Grumman in
    • Internal and government investigations by the U.S. Air Force and the National Transportation Safety Board relating to crashes of the Global Hawk and other aircraft.
    • Multi-year, multi-agency time-charging fraud investigation of allegations that government contractors overcharged on contracts with the Air Force.
  • Major defense industry companies in dozens of investigations for alleged criminal violations of false claims and false statement statutes, relating to everything from missiles and satellites to facility maintenance services.

Bribery and Public Corruption

  • A former executive at FirstEnergy Corp. in a federal criminal investigation and civil shareholder derivatives lawsuit.
  • Former CEO of savings & loan charged with accepting bribe from an investment bank. Obtained complete acquittal by jury.
  • Various Fortune 500 companies in dozens of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, all resolved without prosecution.
  • Finance director of major U.S. Senate campaign — acquitted at trial.
  • Finance director of presidential campaign — no charges brought after we investigated and submitted detailed report.


  • An entertainment company in connection with federal investigation and prosecutions relating to money laundering, drug misbranding and other charges.
  • A celebrity entrepreneur accused of tax evasion. After a defense investigation showed that the government’s main witness embezzled money from Munger, Tolles & Olson’s client and hid exculpatory documents, the government dismissed all felony charges.
  • A major film studio in a commissioner’s charge investigation by the EEOC of alleged systemic discrimination against female directors.
  • A major motion picture CEO in a criminal tax-evasion investigation; investigation was dropped after successful five day “trial” on defense assertion or privilege in response to grand jury subpoenas.


  • Transocean/Deepwater Horizon (noted above).
  • Southern California Edison in criminal prosecution for spill into protected waters.
  • Plains All American Pipeline in criminal (and all related civil) actions arising from a 2015 oil spill.

Financial & Securities Fraud

  • Robert Olan, in appeals to the Second Circuit and in Supreme Court overturning insider trading conviction and rejecting government’s effort to expand insider trading, wire fraud, and conversion statutes to cover alleged misuse of confidential government information.
  • General Reinsurance, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, in federal and NY AG investigation for its involvement with AIG and various finite insurance transactions.
  • Officers and directors of IndyMac Bank and New Century Financial in SEC and FDIC investigations arising from the financial crisis.
  • A major technology company in an SEC investigation of statements made by its former CFO in connection with the inadvertent early release of earnings results.
  • Fortune 100 retailer in a federal investigation into backdating of stock options.
  • Founder of communications company and sports-team owner in investigation and prosecution for securities fraud; negotiated resolution without jail time.
  • CEO of a media company in felony tax prosecution. All felony charges dismissed on plea to single misdemeanor with no jail time.

Intellectual Property and Technology

  • Applied Materials as the victim in a federal criminal trial resulting in conviction of former employee for possession of trade secrets.
  • A biotechnology company in a federal False Claims Act investigation relating to prescription drugs.
  • A Fortune 100 company in a criminal investigation of alleged theft of thousands of trade secrets from a competitor; charges declined as part of global settlement.
  • A major financial institution and its founder in a criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York for alleged theft of trade secrets from former employer; no charges brought after trial victory in companion civil case.

Import/Export Laws

  • Represented vice chair of major motion picture studio in criminal investigation of alleged violations of Iranian export laws; no charges brought after multiple presentations.
  • Representation of major defense contractor for alleged violations of criminal statutes prohibiting exportation of certain technology; no charges brought after multiple presentations.

Sexual Misconduct

  • Major universities in internal and criminal investigations of alleged misconduct by administrators, faculty, coaches, and physicians.
  • Activision Blizzard as co-counsel in reaching a $54 million settlement agreement in litigation with the California Civil Rights Department after a years-long investigation of alleged sex discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation against female employees.
  • The Board of Trustees at the Thacher School, one of the nation’s elite boarding schools, in an independent internal investigation into decades of alleged sexual abuse at the school.


John W. Berry
Hailyn J. Chen
Lisa J. Demsky
Jonathan Kravis
Daniel B. Levin

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