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Dawn Raids Part 1

Updated: Feb 16

For many organisations, the first intimation that they are under investigation is an unannounced visit by members of a regulatory agency, otherwise known as a dawn raid. The first few minutes of such a raid can be the most dangerous for the company. To reduce this danger as far as possible, the organisation’s employees, from the reception staff to the senior management team need to know what they should do and – possibly more important still – what not to do.

The Plan

A company that mishandles a dawn raid can face serious consequences. For example, privileged documents may be handed over, employees may be questioned about matters that are outside the scope of the investigation and notes on what has been taken by the investigators may be incomplete, meaning that there is no way of knowing what information they have.

A clear and detailed plan that ensures all members of staff know what to do and to whom to report in the event of a dawn raid will reduce panic and ensure that the organisation can keep control of events. Key members of staff who are most likely to encounter the investigators when they arrive and during the course of their investigation should be briefed and trained on their roles, rights and responsibilities as well as the powers of the investigators – i.e. what they can and cannot do.

Who can carry out dawn raids?

A number of criminal and regulatory agencies can mount this kind of unannounced visit, including:

  • The Police

  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)

  • Environment Agency

  • European Commission (often accompanied by the UK authorities)

  • Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

  • HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)

  • Prudential Regulation Authority

  • Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)

  • Serious Fraud Office (SFO)

Who should do what

The actions to be taken in the event of a dawn raid differ depending on the person.

Front desk/reception

  • Staff should remain polite and calm at all times

  • The names of the personnel taking part in the investigation should be recorded for later reference.

  • The investigators should be settled in an empty room, away from the reception area.

  • Reception staff should advise the investigators that senior management have been informed of their arrival.

  • Copies should be made of any warrants or authorisations for the raid.

  • Relevant personnel should be contacted immediately; they will include senior management and both internal and external lawyers.

  • Reception staff should ensure that news of the raid does not leak out of the company. Unmanaged information can be very dangerous in terms of the organisation’s reputation.

Senior management and in-house legal

  • Immediately assign a member of staff who can act as a point of contact for the investigators.

  • Check with reception to ascertain the number of investigators on the premises. This will make it easier to monitor where they are and what they are doing.

  • If the company has other locations, the presence of investigators there should be determined. If this is the case, staff there should be informed of what they need to do, and legal representatives should be sent as soon as possible.

  • There may be a delay before the organisation’s legal representatives become available or arrive at the premises. Senior management can ask for a delay before the search begins but the investigators do not have to agree and may begin the search anyway.

  • The authorisation or warrants used by the investigators should be examined closely to ensure that they are all in order (this includes the name of the person/organisation that is being investigated, the names of investigators, date of issue and expiry and the date of the investigation). Any discrepancy should be reported to the organisation’s legal representatives.

  • It is crucial that all staff are reminded that they must not discuss the investigation with anyone else, be that other members of staff who are not involved or outsiders including members of the press.

  • A member of the in-house legal team or external legal representatives should be asked to monitor the activities and requests of each investigator. If the investigators want to examine electronic data, a member of the IT department should accompany them when they do so.

  • In order to ensure that word of the dawn raid does not leak to unauthorised personnel, the organisation may wish to put a temporary block on external e-mails.

In the next part of this article, we’ll take a look at what to do during the actual search itself and how to handle the repercussions of the raid.

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