“What was once a technical area of concern for select businesses should now be at the top of every company’s risk compliance chart,” warns Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

In March 2023, the Department of Justice announced that its focus on corporate criminal enforcement is shifting “to address a troubling trend: the intersection of corporate crime and national security.” For this reason, the National Security Division is in the process of hiring more than 25 new prosecutors and its first-ever Chief Counsel for Corporate Enforcement, all to focus on sanctions evasion, export control violations, and other corporate crimes that fall under the national security umbrella.

To those corporate executives having difficulty understanding this paradigm shift, you are not alone. For more than two decades, DOJ and the intelligence community have focused their national security resources on the fight against foreign terrorist organizations, on efforts to thwart westerners traveling abroad to train with them and “lone wolves” inspired by them, and most recently on domestic extremists. But the National Security arena is ever-changing, and the landscape has shifted yet again.

Today, the U.S. government is taking a broader view of national security and its overlap with foreign policy, at times conflating the two, and are confronting both with a broad and complex combination of economic, administrative, and criminal tools. As a result, companies in all sectors are now at risk of incurring fines, asset seizures, or even criminal prosecution due to transactions, exports, or any cross-border business that may be seen as benefiting a national security threat or disregarding a foreign policy concern. Even insufficient due diligence or delayed reporting could attract negative government attention in this current foreign-policy-is-national-security landscape.

To make things more challenging, national security law is generally outside the expertise of most corporate in-house counsel. It is a niche field, and not just because of the countless acronyms. The national security legal landscape is governed as much by policy as it is by legislation. The government agencies involved are highly specialized, and the preferred processes are often unwritten. Therefore, successful corporate compliance in the national security arena requires a holistic and creative approach, deep expertise, and absolute credibility with government authorities.

Freeh Sporkin & Sullivan LLP (“FSS”) is a boutique law firm uniquely situated to operate successfully in this arena. Its professionals all have high-level law enforcement backgrounds (including former U.S. Attorneys and Assistant U.S. Attorneys, a former federal judge, a former Deputy Director of the FBI and Delaware Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security, a former Director of the NJ Division of Criminal Justice, and former U.S. Military Special Operations Forces Veterans). As such, FSS attorneys have worked on high-profile and highly sensitive national security matters, both classified and unclassified, including matters involving international sanctions, export controls, terrorism, intelligence, national security policy, and defense. Together they are national security experts in every sense of the word. And now they are using this expertise in the private sector, helping their clients navigate the complex national security legal and policy landscape here and abroad, to stay on the right side of the law, to challenge sanctions and other potential penalties that may arise, and to thrive in this new world of compliance and risk.

National security remains a top priority of the Department of Justice. Therefore, when the Deputy Attorney General warns that national security “should now be at the top of every company’s risk compliance chart,” companies everywhere would be wise to listen.