Thought Leaders: Business Crime Defence 2017
Paul Gully-Hart is a partner in Schellenberg Wittmer’s dispute resolution group in Geneva, where he heads the white-collar and compliance group. He has developed a strong practice in complex litigation that frequently involves an international component and multi-jurisdictional aspects. He is specialised in regulatory and compliance issues, asset-recovery, business crime defence work, and international legal assistance. He has more than 30 years of experience in business crime defence work.
Why did you choose to focus your practice on business crime defence?
This choice was made more than 30 years ago, when business crime defence work was a novel area of practice, with relatively few competitors on the local market. When I began this practice, a new legal and regulatory framework was emerging (anti-money laundering legislation, codes of conduct for financial institutions, international mutual assistance in criminal matters, etc) which required specialised advice and legal representation.
What do clients look for in their legal representatives?
Our client wants his lawyer to be responsive, reactive and reliable. In complex financial matters involving potential exposure to liability, the client will expect his legal representative to be decisive and to have a clear strategy designed to resolve the issues under dispute.
What issues facing clients are receiving the most attention at the moment?
Regulations have been tightened, particularly in the financial services sector. Law enforcement and regulatory actions are more robust. As a consequence, many businesses have to allocate more resources to their legal/compliance departments. Many clients seek advice and guidance on how they should adjust to new legislation.
What is unique about the practice at Schellenberg Wittmer?
Arguably, Schellenberg Wittmer has the largest white-collar crime team in Switzerland. There is efficient and seamless cooperation between our Geneva and Zurich teams. We also have the resources to conduct large projects for clients.
As head of the firm’s white-collar crime and compliance practice, what are your priorities over the coming year in terms of strategy?
We will continue to position Schellenberg Wittmer as one of the leaders in our field of practice. The issues outlined above call for sub-specialisations in our field of practice. For instance, we will provide our clients with well-recognised specialists of trade and finance sanctions law, asset-recovery, cross-border enforcement of securities law and white-collar crime defences in a multi-jurisdictional context.
Given the increasingly multijurisdictional aspect of business crime defence work, how important are strong networks and alliances with local firms and practitioners?
We have developed an extensive network of like-minded practitioners abroad. We firmly believe in a “best friends” policy with foreign law firms, which is based on mutual interests and regular cooperation in ongoing cases. We do not currently plan to join a network or alliance with other firms.
Would you say that cross-border white-collar crime enforcement has become increasingly aggressive in the past few years? If so, are clients and their legal representatives now focusing on compliance and pre-emptive strategies to reduce the chances of litigation?
We agree with both propositions. However, in our view, the increased focus of our clients on compliance programmes and other preemptive strategies is dictated primarily by the tightening of the regulatory environment and the risk of being exposed to reputational damage. The involvement of a client in crossborder law enforcement requires particular attention to cooperation with high-calibre law firms in all jurisdictions.
What is the secret of your success?
In our view, our success is built on the traditional strength of our white-collar and compliance group. We are no newcomers to this area of practice and can rely on our experience in dealing with a wide and diverse range of issues. We also interact very frequently with law enforcement and regulatory authorities in Switzerland and we stay abreast of new trends and developments in law enforcement and regulations.