Almost every sphere of today’s economy is closely regulated by federal or provincial legislation – and in some cases by both. Despite the best efforts of businesses to achieve regulatory compliance in its use of natural resources, or to provide a dynamically safe environment for its workforce, there will be unanticipated accidents, and unforeseen crises. Government regulators may also occasionally make prosecutorial decisions to test the appropriateness of industrial practices across whole industries.
In situations where government regulators choose to focus attention on a business enterprise, perhaps because of an incident, or because of some other reason for public notoriety, it’s essential for the business to protect its interests. This requires an active strategy for appropriate interaction with government enforcement personnel. Failure to respond in an appropriate manner can create unnecessary and costly damage to the business – even if regulatory charges are never pursued. Over-disclosure of private business information may also harm the interests of a company or a group of enterprises. If prosecutions are pursued, the potential fines and “public interest” contributions are often calculated in the several thousands of dollars and sometimes carry the potential for jail terms for the directing minds of the enterprise.
Don Murray has had consistent experience as a Defence counsel participating in the investigative interviews and searches, decision to prosecute discussions, and occasional trials of Occupational Health and Safety Act allegations. Several of these matters have involved issues of equipment compliance at worksites. Several have, unfortunately, also involved employee fatalities. Such trials are almost invariably long and costly. Charges may not only involve the company, but also its key personnel.
Mr Murray appreciates that businesses need the best possible factual, legal, and practical information to make rational, qualified, and economically sensible decisions about how to respond to these kinds of risk. It is important to provide businesses with the business case for managing an investigation or prosecution.