Q&A: Michael A. Cox
Senior Counsel, Dykema,Detroit
DB: Where are you?
MC: In Washington, D.C., where I’m attending the National Association of Attorneys General spring meeting.
DB: What’s going on there?
MC: I was part of a panel that addressed parallel proceedings, where companies or individuals face criminal and civil actions simultaneously. An example includes British Petroleum, with the oil spill last summer in the Gulf of Mexico. We’re also seeing it in Michigan with the Enbridge oil spill last July, where the oil reached the Kalamazoo River.
DB: What steps can companies take in response to a government investigation?
MC: A company needs to be proactive and engaged about how it operates, both in the short term and the long term. Such practices will really limit any potential problems. If a government investigation does occur — and, let’s face it, accidents [happen] — companies need to be very up-front with federal and state regulators. The more regulators are kept in the dark, the harder it will be for everyone involved. In my experience as Michigan’s attorney general, if we were kept in the dark about an issue or investigation, the problems tended to get worse.
DB: How can companies prepare for regulations that are in flux, such as national health care reform?
MC: Our firm has been working very diligently on this issue. The legislation was passed (in March 2010), and we’ve been developing strategies and monitoring the legislative process very closely. ... Now administrative hearings are under way to set out the rule-making. It’s like a big rock that’s been dropped in a pool, and we’re following and anticipating the waves.
DB: How about the Dodd-Frank Act?
MC: It’s the same as health care in terms of administrative hearings and rule-making. The U.S. government is creating a whole new consumer protection agency, and at the same time increasing the power of state attorneys general as it relates to prosecuting federal law. Each state operates differently.
DB: How did you make the transition from public to private counsel?
MC: I’ve long been a prosecutor, so I’m using those skills to anticipate potential issues and problems for our clients. You really want to prevent any problems from occurring. But, if they do occur, the best thing to do going forward is to formulate a very precise plan for solving those problems. db