It is a federal crime to knowingly and willfully make any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation of material fact in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the United States, even if you are not under oath. Likewise, it is also an offense to falsify, conceal, or cover up by any trick, scheme, or falsification of material fact in any matter within the ambit of these jurisdictions.
The rule barring false statements is codified under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001. The rule is a serious concern to anyone who has been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, asked to speak with federal agents or appear before Congress; or to anyone who has been asked to speak with internal investigators regarding federal violations.
Section 1001 was used to prosecute Martha Stewart and Barry Bonds — for securities violations and the use of performance enhancing drugs, respectively.
In many cases, the SEC or other federal agents conducting a white collar investigation will ask to speak informally with corporate employees or officers. Although the individual may not be liable for the conduct under investigation, if the individual knowingly and willfully makes a materially false statement, the individual could be prosecuted under Section 1001, even if the misstatement involved an innocent fact.
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If you have been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, or if you have been asked to speak with federal agents or internal investigators looking into federal violations, the importance of seeking skilled advice cannot be understated. Your right to consult an attorney cannot be used against you, and there is significant risk of going at it alone.