The Honorable Eugene R. Sullivan, the former Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals gave a Centennial Lecture, “Investigating Alleged Misdeeds: Good Corporate Practice” at the Webster Vienna Campus on Thursday, January 29. His remarks were based on case studies that he encountered at his current position as partner in the global judicial/law enforcement consulting firm, Freeh Group International Solutions (FGIS), founded by Louis J. Freeh, former director of the FBI. The firm conducts independent investigations in a variety of companies, and Sullivan enthralled the audience with case studies of alleged embezzlement and bribery by multi-billion dollar firms.
Judge Sullivan has a mantra that he believes that companies should follow when facing accusations of misdeeds, “1. Evaluate the Risk, 2. Find the Truth, and 3.Take Action”. Sullivan noted that external organizations should be engaged in order to investigate; internal investigations have neither credibility, nor are effective at finding the truth. Once the truth is found—should the accusations prove true—the firm must act immediately by taking responsibility and holding those involved accountable.
Sometimes the accusations prove to be unfounded, as Sullivan found in the case of the company Slav AG, which operates partly out of Vienna. Slav AG was accused in the media (see Der Standard, for example) of money laundering and of possible human rights violations due to ties with former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, who was involved in the violent suppression of protestors in the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution. Sullivan, together with the investigation team found that these allegations were not true, but that the corporation did the right thing by requesting an external investigation.
[Note: After this was published, Serhiy Kliuyev, one of the co-owners of Slav AG, joined his brother Andriy as a fugitive in Russia, Andriy is on the US, UK, and EU sanctions lists, while Serhiy has been on various sanctions lists at various times since 2014. Both brothers were subject to EU & UK sanctions when Sullivan was defending their company.]
Sullivan also shared some stories from his illustrious past. He is a retired Federal Judge in Washington D.C. with over 16 years of appellate experience. Nominated by President Reagan and confirmed by the Senate, Judge Sullivan was installed as a Federal Judge in 1986. In 1990, President Bush named him the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals (AF). From 1982 until 1986, Judge Sullivan was the General Counsel of the National Reconnaissance Office (“NRO”, a then super-secret US satellite intelligence agency). Judge Sullivan also served in the White House on the legal defense team of President Nixon during the Watergate investigation in 1974. From 1974 to 1982, he was a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. From 1982, until he became a Federal Judge in 1986, Judge Sullivan served in the Pentagon as the General Counsel and the Chief Ethics Officer of the U.S. Air Force after serving initially as the Deputy General Counsel.
At a reception following the Centennial Lecture, Judge Sullivan answered students’ questions over a glass of Austrian wine and hors d’oevres. Two of Sullivan’s colleagues from the investigation, Michael McCall—Associate Managing Director with Freeh Group and former FBI Special Agent— and Eugene R. Sullivan II—Judge Sullivan’s son and Lead Counsel during the investigation— were also there to meet with students. The reception was generously donated by SLAV AG.