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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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Understanding FTC Civil Investigative Demands: A Guide for Businesses

By Spodek Law Group | January 24, 2024
(Last Updated On: January 24, 2024)

Understanding FTC Civil Investigative Demands: A Guide for Businesses

If your business receives a civil investigative demand (CID) from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), it likely means the agency believes you have information relevant to an ongoing investigation. Even if you’re not the target, you still need to take it seriously and respond appropriately.

What is an FTC Civil Investigative Demand?

A CID is like an administrative subpoena. It’s a formal request for information backed by the threat of legal punishment if you don’t comply. The FTC can use CIDs to demand stuff like testimony, documents, computer files, and physical evidence.The FTC doesn’t need probable cause to send a CID. Their authority comes from 15 U.S.C. § 57b-1 which lets them invoke investigative tools to enforce laws against unfair or deceptive business practices.

Why Did I Get a CID?

There’s a few reasons why the FTC might send your business a CID:

  • You’re the target of an investigation into potentially illegal practices
  • You have information relevant to another company’s investigation
  • It’s a fishing expedition to see if you have any useful info

The CID will state the “Subject of Investigation” so check that part closely. See if the FTC is investigating your specific company or casting a wider net.

What Happens If I Don’t Comply?

Ignoring or fighting a CID is risky business. The FTC doesn’t mess around with enforcement. As this FTC blog post says:

“These requests are legally enforceable demands, and recipients of subpoenas or CIDs need to take their obligation to comply seriously.”

If you fail to properly respond, the FTC can get the courts to compel compliance. And over the past few years, they have taken legal action against uncooperative companies. Fighting a CID should not be your default move.

Responding to a CID: Key Tips

Here’s some advice on managing a CID response:

Carefully Review

Go through the CID line-by-line with experienced counsel. Understand the exact scope and constraints. Look for wiggle room to narrow or defer requests.

Meet and Confer

Don’t just jump to court motions. First, meet with the FTC to discuss the CID. See if you can limit breadth or extend deadlines. Show reasonableness.

Tell Your Story

When crafting narrative responses, remember the goal is convincing them your business complies with the law. Provide context for anything that seems questionable.

Present Industry Norms

Compare your practices, policies, and procedures to wider industry standards. Show how you align with what competitors do.

Cooperate Selectively

Be open about burdensome requests but don’t wholesale resist compliance. Find the line between cooperation and protecting yourself. Get help from legal counsel experienced with FTC investigations.

How to Prevent Getting a CID

Getting a CID means the FTC already has concerns about your business practices. But some proactive things you can do to lower investigation risks include:

  • Document privacy policies and data security measures
  • Conduct audits to identify compliance gaps
  • Train employees on legal requirements
  • Track customer complaints related to unfair/deceptive practices
  • Research and follow latest FTC guidance in your industry

Regularly reviewing policies and procedures shows good faith effort at legal compliance. And if issues do arise later, you’ll have a paper trail demonstrating reasonableness.But even companies with robust compliance programs can end up in FTC crosshairs. So know how to respond if you ever get the dreaded CID letter.

Don’t go it alone when served with a civil investigative demand. The stakes are high and one misstep can spur enforcement action.Experienced regulatory counsel can help at all stages:

  • Reviewing – Identify risks, obligations, and negotiation opportunities
  • Meeting – Strategize discussions and secure concessions if possible
  • Responding – Craft narrative and prepare production to mitigate liability
  • Resolving – Negotiate settlement or consent decree if enforcement looms

The goal is convincing the FTC your business complies with relevant laws. Savvy counsel guides you to the best path there.

What Happens After Responding to a CID?

There’s a few ways things can play out after you respond:Case Closed – If your submissions satisfy the FTC, they may close the investigation with no further action.More Requests – If your responses raise additional questions, expect follow-up demands for info.Settlement Demand – The FTC may try negotiating a settlement before pursuing enforcement in court.Litigation – If talks fail, the FTC can file a complaint against your company in federal court.The FTC initiates over 2,000 investigations annually. Only a small fraction reach litigation. In most cases, companies avoid enforcement orders through cooperation or quick settlement.

Key Takeaways

  • FTC CIDs are like administrative subpoenas demanding information related to investigations
  • Ignoring CIDs can spur court-ordered compliance and penalties
  • Work with experienced attorneys to appropriately narrow and respond
  • Convince investigators your business complies with relevant laws
  • Proactive compliance helps reduce risks of getting a CID

Getting that first CID letter may spur anxiety. But understanding the process and seeking good counsel early allows you to manage the demands responsibly. With some luck – and lots of cooperation – you may close the case without issue.

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