Dawn Raid IPhone App Latest Weapon as Lawyers Battle Regulators

Have police officers turned up at your head office wanting to scan your hard drives? Don’t worry - - there’s an app for that.

Australian law firm Clayton Utz has developed a smartphone app for companies facing dawn raids on their offices from police, antitrust and securities regulators, and tax officers. Since its launch yesterday more than a hundred businesses have downloaded the app, according to partner Michael Corrigan.

The software is the latest move in a cat-and-mouse game between companies and regulators worldwide as law enforcement takes advantage of technology to improve its access to internal data in investigations. The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office tripled the number of raids it conducted in the year to March 2014, according to London-based law firm Pinsent Masons LLP, and Chinese regulators have in the past month raided the offices of Microsoft Corp. and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz unit as part of antitrust investigations.

“The last thing that one wants to do when one gets a call from a regulator is move directly to action without taking legal advice,” Justin O’Brien, a law professor at the University of New South Wales, said by phone from Sydney. “Any governance or risk compliance department worth its salt should have already war-gamed what to do in such a circumstance.”

The Clayton Utz app allows in-house lawyers to choose which regulator is raiding their offices and guides them through how they need to act. It’s designed to be used even if regulators shut down an internal computer system, according to the law firm’s website.

It’ll automatically e-mail staff with letters instructing them how to co-operate, send photographs of search warrants to Clayton Utz’s lawyers, and use geolocation information to identify the law firm’s nearest office, Corrigan said.

“If suddenly you find a collection of people in suits standing at your reception who want to march in and start imaging information, it’s really not that useful to have a manual sitting around in someone’s bottom drawer,” Corrigan said. “Authorities are more sophisticated in terms of technology.”

Andre Khoury, a spokesman for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment on the app.

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