Nichola Peters enjoys a “fantastic reputation” among sources as “one of the most capable investigative lawyers in the practice area”. One impressed peer adds, “I would definitely refer work to her when I have a conflict.”
Nichola heads up Addleshaw Goddard’s global corporate crime and investigations team specialising in advising financial institutions, corporates, directors and senior management on financial and corporate crime issues. Key areas involve advising on and carrying out investigations relating to corruption, sanctions, money laundering, terrorist financing, extradition, information security and fraud issues, and dealing with a host of different regulators and law enforcement agencies worldwide.
What motivated you to pursue a career in investigations?
I am passionate about ensuring that my clients have the best advice. That means, for me, thoroughly understanding the multiplicity of issues that the client faces based on a thorough forensic review of the underlying issues and factual matrix to determine the best strategic approach. For me, doing that against a backdrop of understanding the client’s commercial drivers is also important. Understanding that against a regulator or law enforcement agenda is key. That triangulation of issues fascinates me.
How has the role of an investigations lawyer changed since you started your career?
Hugely. From not being a real specialism to being an area that many firms now cover is just one aspect of the emergence of corporate investigations as a specific discipline. There are many more theories out there as to what a good strategy is and what you should and should not do. For me experience is key.
What has been the most interesting case you’ve been a part of recently?
Every case is different and every time I get a large new case, I always think this is the most interesting and the most challenging. Guralp, and the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) we achieved in that case at the end of last year in England and the declination in the US, were rewarding for the whole team and client, and showed that SMEs can obtain DPAs. It is harder for an SME though, and everyone needs to consider that. I don’t think law enforcement appreciates the different issues that arise for smaller entities or give enough weight to resolving those.
What are the current regulatory attitudes towards economic crime offences, and what effect does this have on the advice you give to clients? Have there been any proposed legal changes that might impact this?
There has been a failure by successive governments in the UK to really grapple with corporate liability and what works well in driving the right corporate behaviours. Silo thinking between regulators and governments about approaches makes it difficult for corporates to sometimes ascertain what is expected of them and to know where best to deploy resources.
Further, a political desire to be seen to be taking action can lead to pressure to investigate and find fault without proper and full investigation by regulators. This is a significant concern in some cases.
I’m also bemused by the government’s “will we, won’t we” approach to extending the number of “failure to prevent offences” to other areas of economic crime beyond bribery and facilitation of tax evasion. The continual advance and retreat approach leaves corporates without certainty as to their obligations.
To what extent is remote working as a result of covid-19 highlighting the importance of face-to-face interaction in regulatory investigations?
It has certainly made some aspects more difficult. Negotiation and interactions with regulators and law enforcement is much harder. In many other situations, we have adapted very well to working fully on a digital platform and have managed to carry out most, if not all, aspects of an investigation in a purely digital world with no face-to-face interaction.
How can clients ensure they are prepared to meet the high levels of expectations from regulators concerning operational resilience and robust compliance programmes in firms where remote working is prevalent?
Ensuring teams fully understand the expectations on them, and why those expectations and controls are imposed, will help companies adjust to regulatory oversight in a post-covid-19 world, including continually testing that understanding – not just through e-learning but embedding controls as part of day-to-day operations. A strong control environment is also key, which is subject to forensic audit by those who fully understand the issues the controls seek to address and the method by which the controls address that risk.
What do you enjoy most about working in investigations?
Every day is different!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Pay attention to detail, but make sure you can see the wood for the trees.
Nichola is the global head of Addleshaw Goddard's Global Investigations practice group. Nichola specializes in advising corporates, directors and senior management in relation to regulatory inquiries, investigations, financial and corporate crime issues. Key areas of expertise involve advising on and carrying out investigations relating to corporate collapse, bribery and corruption, sanctions, money laundering, terrorist financing, extradition, information security and fraud issues.
Nichola works closely with clients to carry out internal investigations, conduct due diligence, implement effective compliance programmes and interface with enforcement agencies and regulators. She has an excellent understanding of industry best practice across all aspects of corporate compliance programmes.
Nichola is ranked as a Thought Leader in WWL: Investigations and WWL: Business Crime Defence. Nichola was selected by Global Investigations Review (2018) as one of 100 remarkable women investigation specialists operating across the world. Nichola was also named as one of The Lawyer’s Hot 100 legal practitioners in 2017.