With COVID hot spots continuously arising across not only the Greater Sydney region but the nation, a clear pattern is emerging indicating that the first 72 hours of a COVID incident or emergency are critical to how an organisation will manage the inevitable regulatory and public scrutiny and recover from it. Over the past year and a half, we have dealt with many different COVID related investigations across all industries including health, retail, hospitality and international marine. Our experts agree that executing these three steps effectively within the first 72 hours, will ensure your organisation is in the best position to prevent a COVID-crisis from becoming a catastrophe.
- loss of privilege by engaging legal up front. Legal privilege protects communications about legal advice or in anticipation of litigation from being disclosed to a third party. This protection is critical as loss of privilege of sensitive legal communications can harm your defence.
- loss of evidence by identifying where evidence is stored, electronically, hardcopy and on any devices. Your IT and e-forensic consultants will be helpful here. Preserve evidence with a litigation hold notice and cease any deletion of data or archiving. Your evidence will be part of any defensive response. Loss of evidence can also be held against your organisation with the ability for a Court or investigative body to draw conclusions that this lost evidence would have harmed your defence.
- inadvertent admissions by centralising communications through a designated spokesperson and briefing frontline internal stakeholders on do’s and don’ts. The best intentions can often lead to statements and meta-messages being held against you. Centralising comms minimises this risk.
- key stakeholders who will need to be part of your response team. The need for prior preparedness and secure communication lines is critical here.
- key witnesses of fact. This is like preserving your evidence, it is critical to know who was there at the time. Lawyers should take statements from these people under privilege while managing the risk of divergent legal interests between the organisation and the individual.
- incident location(s) and surrounding locations and preserve them by sealing off – regulators may do this before you do – so it is important to be on the scene to cooperate and monitor.
- with a united and prepared front using Dawn Raid Guidance. Your key frontline stakeholders at incident locations will need and will rely on this guidance when regulators or police come knocking.
- Using prepared statements for media and regulatory questions. Expertise from Communications Professionals and your legal team will be critical here.
- by having the practical elements ready to go – you will need cleaning services contracts with trusted service providers so you can conduct the required deep clean for business resumption.
Clyde & Co’s Prosilience Team are currently supporting a number of clients in relation to investigations and crisis management related to COVID-19.
We regularly work with trusted consultants on public relations and reputation management, forensics and evidence preservation and expert senior counsel well versed in the intersection of criminal and civil jurisdictions that characterise these COVID emergencies.
We offer an no-obligation discussion if you are facing COVID related business issues.