Today, universities and colleges face a broad and complex set of legal challenges. Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner has decades of experience assisting institutions of higher education navigate what are often the most sensitive, worrisome and potentially high-profile legal matters. Our attorneys have the subject matter experience, skills, understanding and deep appreciation for the unique environment that exists in higher education to offer the necessary advice and, if needed, investigative counsel to successfully resolve even the most troubling or threatening challenges to an institution’s finances, legal posture and reputation.
Institutions of higher education consist of one of the most pervasively regulated sectors of the national economy. The federal government in particular asserts major, continuing stakes in, to take but a few examples, how universities account for and manage federal research funds, Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements, Title IV student aid funds; conduct human subject research; protect the privacy of its patients’ and employees’ health records; investigate and resolve complaints of sexual assault and other Title IX violations on campus; review and resolve faculty and executive conflicts of interest; and manage the security and waste-disposal practices of laboratories working with the most dangerous pathogens and chemical substances. In broad terms, the major areas of higher education regulation include all aspects of the provision of health care including federal payor reimbursement and the security of protected health information, the conduct of clinical trials and other sponsored research, the management of federal research and student aid funds, compliance with exempt organizations tax law, capital finance and international transactions, admissions and financial aid affirmative action programs, the handling of hazardous wastes and other toxins, and the management of endowment funds.
The intensified regulatory burdens and increasing government enforcement pressures in these and other domains, coupled with the steadily increasing financial and political pressures confronting universities today, make higher education’s compliance with all applicable laws and regulations especially complex. The administratively and financially decentralized structure of many universities also makes compliance planning and monitoring even more challenging. Despite the most effective possible compliance planning, all institutions from time to time experience compliance breakdowns, and the ultimate legal consequences of such breakdowns are heavily dependent on the quality, independence, speed and sensitivity with which universities conduct and complete internal investigations to determine how the breakdown occurred, how it should be managed with the relevant agency or other authority, and how it can be prevented in the future.
Universities today must be able to immediately access attorneys experienced in conducting such internal investigations, whether under the direction of chief legal officers or on behalf of audit or special committees of the client’s board. Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner’s investigative and compliance experience encompasses investigations into, and counseling in connection with, allegations of executive and faculty misconduct, Medicare or Medicaid fraud, research funding improprieties, other allegations of False Claim Act violations, Title IX violations, environmental and select agent issues, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and export controls and trade sanctions matters, privacy and data breach issues.