"Big cases, big problems. Little cases, little problems. No cases, no problems. If you are a federal law enforcement official, you have heard this anecdotal expression often enough to know that it contains more than a kernel of truth. In my experience, it is often the most aggressive, most productive and most capable agents who get ground up in the disciplinary machinery of their respective law enforcement agencies. And when that happens, you may be shocked to learn two things: the first is that you are now in an adversarial relationship with the Agency that once embraced you as a member of its family; and second, you may find that your exemplary record of performance and achievement may not count for as much as you think.
When the shock you will invariably experience when confronted with the potential loss of your career subsides, hopefully you will find solace in the fact that at some point in your career you had the foresight to purchase a professional liability policy, which in turn will provide you with the caliber of legal advice necessary to defend against the charges and salvage your career. I have represented hundreds of federal law enforcement officials in my career. The best advice I have given any of them is to purchase a professional liability policy in anticipation of that dark day when they might need it. Unless you are one of those rare ‘no cases, no problems’ agents, you simply cannot afford not to.”
Thomas G. Roth, Law Offices of Thomas G. Roth, Former Federal Prosecutor
"I served as a federal prosecutor with the Department of Justice for 14 years and for the past 19 years, I have headed up a boutique criminal defense law firm in Washington, D.C. Over the years, I have defended dozens of federal officials and employees who have become the subjects or targets of criminal investigations. The vast majority of federal employees I have represented were honest, upstanding, and dedicated civil servants who committed no crime, but rather were the victims of overzealous investigators and prosecutors. Not surprisingly, the first reaction of these clients almost uniformly is: "I can’t believe that this is happening to me.” They find themselves in a situation where their careers, livelihoods, and financial security are in jeopardy. It is frightening.
I have also seen how injecting experienced, knowledgeable and aggressive defense counsel into these situations can make all the difference to these individuals. In many of our cases, we were able to convince prosecutors to decline any type of prosecution or dismiss charges. Moreover, in law, as in any other profession, you generally get what you pay for and the legal costs for the best lawyers is almost prohibitive today.
All federal employees need the protection and the sense of security that a professional liability policy provides. I had such a policy myself when I was a supervisor in the Department of Justice, knowing that I might be the target of someone’s misguided allegations. I have worked with Anthony Vergnetti for a number of years in defending federal employees. He knows and understands what can happen to a federal employee accused of wrongdoing. He and his staff at FEDS are concerned about the individual and want all federal employees to have the protection they need. I encourage all federal employees to protect themselves and invest in a professional liability policy. It is a small price to pay in exchange for the protection and security it can provide you.”
David Schertler, Managing Partner, Schertler & Onorato, LLP, Former Federal Prosecutor
"I first heard of FEDS when I joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. At the time, I didn’t think I would ever need insurance. "I’m not going to do anything wrong or unethical, so why would I need insurance for that?” So I didn’t buy it and never gave it another thought. A few years later, I was promoted to a senior position in the Office. A friend who had been in the Office much longer than I had came into my office and asked me if I’d bought the insurance. I told him I’d never gotten around to it because I knew I’d never need it. He then laughed and told me that he was going to stand there and not leave my office until I went to the website and took the five minutes required to fill out the form and get the insurance. I told him, "Fine, I’ll do it,” then started to go back my work. I knew I’d eventually get around to it.
And then he just stood there. When I looked up, he told me that he wasn’t kidding—he was literally going to stand there until I bought it. So I caved, took out my credit card, filled out the form, and signed up with FEDS. Then he left.
As it turned out, I never did need to file a claim. But several of my friends were not so lucky. Some of them had already signed up with FEDS, but some of them had not. They were forced to look around for either pro bono attorneys (who are few and far between for government investigations) or to pay expensive lawyers more per hour than what FEDS charges for an entire year of coverage. None of them had even done anything wrong. But when you’re being investigated, that doesn’t really matter. What matters is getting the best possible representation to ensure you can keep your job and keep doing the work you love.
Upon leaving federal service, I immediately reached out to FEDS and applied to join their panel of attorneys. Since doing so, I have had the honor of representing federal employees in a variety of positions. The difference that FEDS makes in their lives is difficult to overstate. Coverage from FEDS allows them to fight for their jobs and their integrity in a way that would often be cost-prohibitive without coverage. And the government knows it, too—they know the difference between coming after someone who can afford to fight and coming after someone who can’t.
And all of this for what is, in the end, the cost of less than one hour of the average attorney’s time.
Now I’m the person who stands (figuratively) in my friends’ offices when they join the federal government and tell me they don’t need the insurance. Because in the end, just because you didn’t do anything wrong doesn’t mean the government can’t put you through a lengthy and expensive investigation to figure that out. That’s where FEDS comes in, and that’s the kind of good it does. I’m proud to be trusted with representing its members.
Justin Dillon, Partner, Kaiser, LeGrand & Dillon PLLC, Former Federal Prosecutor
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