The recent conviction of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Cheney, provides another opportunity for corporate executives embroiled in government investigations to consider the pitfalls involved in interviews with the government or testimony before investigative bodies. Libby’s conviction, though not stemming from a business crime investigation, nevertheless should serve as a reminder to potential witnesses that even otherwise innocent individuals often make things much worse by not being truthful with government agents or the grand jury.
It has by now become common for the government to charge individuals with perjury, obstruction of justice or lying to government agents in the absence of charges for the offense being investigated in the first place. Libby, after all, was convicted of perjury, obstruction of justice and false statements for his lack of candor involving his knowledge that a former diplomat’s wife worked for the CIA. Although the investigation was sparked by a desire to determine who, if anyone, leaked classified information to the media, the investigators determined rather quickly both who had leaked the information (not Libby) and that no crime had been committed in doing so.