The Role and Authority of Federal Inspectors General
The Inspector General Act of 1978 established IG offices in many federal agencies. One of the responsibilities given to these offices was investigation of fraud. Since 1978, the number of federal Inspectors General has increased from 12 to more than 75.
To carry out their duty to investigate fraud, IG offices are given many of the powers of traditional law enforcement including armed agents, subpoena power and even search warrants.
If an IG investigation reveals evidence of illegality, they may make a referral to the Department of Justice for legal action. It is up to the DOJ to decide whether to act on the referral and whether it will be handled as a civil or criminal matter. In the former case, the DOJ may bring an action to recover damages under a federal statute such as the False Claims Act. In the latter case, the DOJ can seek a criminal indictment for a federal crime such as wire fraud.
Legal Representation in Inspector General Investigations
If you or your company are contacted in connection with Inspector General investigation, what should you do? As with any federal investigation, you should contact an attorney to represent you in the investigation.
Every IG case is different, but some questions you will want to discuss with an attorney in almost every case include 1) am I suspected of wrongdoing or am I simply a witness? 2) has the IG already referred the matter to the DOJ and, if so, 3) is its likely to be handled criminally or civilly? , and 4) should I agree to speak with IG investigators?
The answers to these questions will depend on the particular facts of your case.