After four years of litigation, DWT prevailed in an important case on behalf of the investigative journalism nonprofit, 100Reporters. Led by associates Adam Shoemaker (now with National Public Radio) and Pat Curran, and supervised by partners Ronnie London and Laura Handman, the team won a ruling establishing that certain kinds of documents provided by companies to the federal government, as part of ongoing compliance with the terms of enforcement actions, can be released to the media and the public.
The suit arose from a $1.6 billion plea agreement that Siemens AG entered into with the Justice Department (DOJ) in 2008, settling charges that the company had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. As part of that agreement, Siemens was required to hire an independent compliance monitor to ensure that it established an effective system of corporate governance and complies with anticorruption laws in the future. Such monitors are commonly a part of corporate resolutions with the DOJ and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and the agencies typically receive documentation from the monitors about the monitored companies’ ongoing conduct.
100Reporters sought access to some of these documents through the Freedom of Information Act, but was rebuffed by the DOJ. DWT's team stepped in and filed suit in 2015, seeking to compel production.
In June 2018, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision finding that the DOJ was “overbroad” in what it withheld, and while portions of the documents sought were exempt from disclosure, others were not.
“We are gratified that Judge Contreras agreed that the denial was overly broad, and has ordered the DOJ to actually release documents that were unjustifiably withheld,” Diana Jean Schemo, executive editor of 100Reporters, told Law360. “In corporate criminal settlements, the public has the right to see what the company is doing to remedy the illegal behavior.”