In the immediate aftermath of a major accident or environmental incident, the potential for a criminal investigation should be neither ignored nor minimized. Government agencies continue to expand criminal prosecutions in these high-stakes cases involving worker endangerment and environmental harm. Agency investigations are often initiated even as the incident plays out, and criminal agents are under no obligation to inform the company. Katten's Environmental Crimes and Internal Investigations group works jointly with our incident response team, and we take nothing for granted.

Preserving the record

Led by a former head of the US Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section, our team understands when a case is likely to "turn" criminal, and we prepare our clients accordingly. We are adept at managing criminal risk in the midst of overlapping regulatory investigations and parallel civil litigation, and we are ever-mindful of the record being developed. We know that prosecutors see cases differently, and that wrong impressions can be easily, if inadvertently, created.

Managing the narrative

Our attorneys — many of whom are former prosecutors themselves — conduct internal investigations to gain a thorough understanding of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident and its root cause. Our approach mirrors the government agency's investigation. We gather the facts to understand what transpired and to develop a strong defense. Our investigations have the added benefit of helping us discern the contours of the case the government might build, and to plan our case accordingly.

Our attorneys have represented clients under most major federal environmental and safety statutes, including:

  • Clean Air Act
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
  • Clean Water Act
  • Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
  • Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships)
  • Oil Pollution Act
  • Ports and Waterways Safety Act
  • Ocean Dumping Act
  • National Environmental Policy Act
  • Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act
  • Endangered Species Act
  • Migratory Bird Treaty Act
  • Marine Mammal Protection Act


  • Represented an offshore labor services company in the Black Elk case, a federal criminal investigation of a multi-fatality explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that followed Deepwater Horizon. Successfully obtained dismissal of all felony counts in the indictment on a motion to dismiss.
  • Represent well services company in a federal criminal OSHA/DOJ investigation of a fatality at a fracking site.
  • Defended one of the world's largest providers of wastewater management solutions in a federal criminal prosecution. Secured an acquittal of a 26-count criminal indictment.
  • Represent Fortune 50 energy company in a federal criminal Clean Air Act/Risk Management Plan investigation focused on whether American Petroleum Institute Standards and Recommended Practices can be the basis for a criminal prosecution.
  • Represent offshore oil services company in a federal criminal investigation involving allegations of safety violations, false statements and misrepresentations concerning offshore BSEE regulations.
  • Frequently represent companies and individuals in vessel-related criminal cases.
  • Counsel in securing a declination from the Department of Justice on behalf of a power plant operations and management company. Concerned a criminal investigation involving allegations of tampering with emissions equipment and submitting false information to environmental and energy regulators in violation of the Clean Air Act and the Federal Power Act.
  • Represented crew member of a fishing vessel operating in the South Pacific who was detained for alleged MARPOL and APPS violations, which could result in substantial prison time. We prepared the client on making an extensive proffer to the prosecutor, which convinced the government to revise its approach to the case and resulted in the client's freedom.