White Collar Defense & Investigations

Davis Polk is widely recognized as having one of the world’s preeminent white collar defense and investigations practices. We represent corporations and individuals from around the world in high-profile and complex white collar defense matters, including government, grand jury and internal investigations. Our litigators include some of the most highly respected defense lawyers in the country, many of whom served with distinction before joining the firm as federal and state prosecutors or senior officials at the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Our defense and investigation lawyers currently play leading roles in major enforcement and regulatory proceedings in various areas, including:

A large part of our practice involves representing corporations, individuals, financial institutions and professional firms in nonpublic regulatory investigations and proceedings conducted by numerous U.S., state and foreign agencies, including:

  • Department of Justice (DOJ)
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA)
  • Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)
  • Securities and Futures Commission of Hong Kong (SFC)
  • Securities Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • Offices of State Attorneys General and District Attorneys
  • U.K. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
  • U.K. Serious Fraud Office (SFO)

Our white collar defense team works closely with our regulatory enforcement and securities enforcement practices to provide clients with a multidisciplinary approach to criminal, civil and regulatory matters, enabling us to take immediate action on a number of fronts.

SEC and CFTC Update

A monthly newsletter providing insight into recent developments, key cases, and trends in enforcement at the SEC and CFTC.


Chambers USA:

  • Davis Polk is “highly esteemed for its strengths defending government enforcement and investigations involving multiple jurisdictions and agencies. Calls upon a formidable roster of talented litigators, offering extensive expertise in trial and appellate proceedings.”
  • Client Comments:
    • Davis Polk is “[f]irst-class in terms of their quality and technical competence and their writing and briefing. They do a first-rate job in advocacy.” 
    • “I rely on [Davis Polk] for their internal investigations and regulatory compliance. They've got great legal minds and are all very practical. They understand how companies work – what our challenges and sensitivities are.” 

Legal 500 U.S.:

  • “‘[W]onderful firm’ Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP is justifiably regarded as ‘one of the pre-eminent criminal defense and investigations practices in the US.’” 

Global Investigations Review – GIR 30

    • “Davis Polk & Wardwell’s white-collar and investigations practice is one of the world’s very best, with its partners having worked across the highest levels of government. And that experience shows: they are securing regular declinations for clients.”

Benchmark Litigation – White-Collar Crime, Tier 1

Notable Matters

Anti-Money Laundering and Sanctions
  • Intesa Sanpaolo. We represent Intesa Sanpaolo in connection with investigations by DOJ, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, the Federal Reserve Bank, the New York DFS and other agencies into alleged violations of U.S. sanctions laws relating to USD transactions involving Iran and other sanctioned countries.
False Claims Act and HealthCare Fraud
  • A life sciences company. We represent a life sciences company in connection with an investigation under the Federal Acquisition Regulation and False Claims Act regarding inaccurate billing of certain government contracts.
  • A healthcare supplies company. We represent a healthcare supplies company and its biotechnology subsidiary in connection with a DOJ inquiry and parallel congressional investigation related to medical devices.
FCPA Investigations
  • Telia Company AB. We represented Telia in the largest FCPA investigation involving allegations of employees paid bribes to enter into the Uzbekistan market. The global settlement included resolutions with DOJ, SEC, Dutch Prosecutor and Swedish authorities.
  • Cisco Systems, Inc. We represented Cisco on investigations conducted by the SEC and DOJ into potential FCPA breaches related to business activities in Russia and elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Independent States.
  • AstraZeneca.  We represented AstraZeneca, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, in an investigation by the SEC and DOJ of the pharmaceutical industry across seven countries, including China. The broad-ranging inquiry, which spanned several years, focused on activities, including sales practices, internal controls, distribution, and interactions with healthcare providers, institutions and government officials.
  • Numerous global financial institutions. We represent numerous global financial institutions in connection with FCPA investigations by DOJ, SEC and other regulatory agencies into hiring practices in Asia.
Financial Markets
  • Morgan Stanley. We represented Morgan Stanley in an investigation by the Department of Justice into alleged FIRREA violations relating to Morgan Stanley’s issuance of subprime residential mortgage-backed securities (“RMBS”) during the financial crisis. The approved settlement is the most favorable of all involved institutions, to date.
  • McGraw Hill Financial, Inc. and Standard & Poor’s Inc. We represented McGraw Hill and S&P Inc. in connection with their landmark settlement agreement with DOJ and the Attorneys General of 19 states and the District of Columbia.
  • A major financial institution.  We represented a major financial institution in connection with a securities fraud and obstruction of justice investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina. No criminal charges were filed against our client.
Insider Trading and Market Manipulation
  • The Royal Bank of Scotland plc. We represented RBS on investigations conducted by law enforcement and financial regulators worldwide with respect to the bank’s foreign exchange (“FX”) spot market. The approved resolution was the lowest fine among involved institutions.
  • A Hedge Fund. We successfully represented a hedge fund with approximately $2 billion in assets under management and an analyst employed by the fund in connection with insider trading investigations by DOJ and SEC. We received a written declination from the SEC and no charge from DOJ to date.
Tax Investigations
  • A number of global financial institutions:
    • We represent a number of global financial institutions in connection with criminal investigations by DOJ and the IRS into alleged aiding and abetting of U.S. persons in evading taxes by hiding assets overseas.
    • We are advising a number of global financial institutions in responding to inquiries from governments relating to the "Panama Papers" data leak, and in evaluating and enhancing their cross-border tax compliance policies and procedures for new and existing clients.