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12.17.14 | Blog Posts

The Barko v. KBR Privilege Battle Continues

The Insider: White Collar Defense and Securities Enforcement

A high-profile qui tam suit against Kellogg, Brown & Root and Halliburton continues to generate important case law relating to the scope of attorney-client privilege and work product protection given to internal investigations.

In the lawsuit, arising out of alleged false claims to the government under Iraq reconstruction-related contracts, federal judge James S. Gwin in Washington, D.C. held, in March 2014, that internal investigation materials were not protected by the attorney-client privilege because the investigation had been conducted as a matter of regular company policy by internal compliance personnel and as required by federal law. (I wrote about Judge Gwin’s ruling in a blog entitled “When Is An Internal Investigation Not Privileged.”) The defendants appealed the ruling, which led to a unanimous decision three months later in In Re: Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., No. 14-5055 (D.C. Cir. June 27, 2014), in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated the district court decision, holding that an internal investigation is privileged so long as “one of the significant purposes” of the investigation is to obtain or provide legal advice. The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings. (I discussed the D.C. Circuit’s opinion in “D.C. Circuit Upholds Claim of Corporate Attorney-Client Privilege.”) That ruling is now subject to a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court. [...]

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