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Public Law & Ethics

Our experienced team represents businesses and governments before federal, state and local regulatory agencies.

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Mayer Brown’s Public Law & Ethics practice combines sophisticated political experience and unmatched legal knowledge to represent both public agencies and businesses before federal, state and local regulatory agencies.

Our clients have ranged from major corporations and financial institutions in need of multifaceted strategies to government entities seeking novel solutions to unprecedented challenges. Mayer Brown’s experience representing both private entities and government bodies provides unique insights into the intersection of business, government and politics and achieves successful results for our clients.

State and Local Government Contracting 

Mayer Brown has significant experience navigating government procurement regulations and procedures at the state and local levels. Our lawyers provide end-to-end advice to private clients seeking to do business with state and local governments, including assistance with the application and bid process, disclosures, concession agreements, RFQ and RFP question-and-answer periods, MBE/WBE requirements, use of subcontractor and bid protests.

Mayer Brown’s significant experience representing government entities in multiple first-of-their-kind transactions and procurements means we fully understand the procurement process from the government’s perspective and provides a successful formula for our private clients. Our state and local procurement services span industries, with significant experience in aviation, construction, transportation, infrastructure, public works, information technology, financial services, telecommunications and real estate. As state and local governments adopt more stringent procurement guidelines, we help simplify and navigate the process, ensuring that our clients meet every necessary requirement while compiling competitive bids. 

Ethics and Disclosures in Procurement

Doing business with governments presents unique compliance burdens. Bidders and contractors must often demonstrate compliance with any number of special-purpose regulations, such as foreign boycott laws, labor and human rights laws, lobbyist compliance and pay-to-play compliance. Contractors must also contend with public records laws, which could mean the disclosure of sensitive business information.

Lawyers in our Public Law & Ethics practice help government contractors and bidders comply with ethics and disclosure requirements triggered by the procurement process. We identify requirements and help clients obtain required registrations and certifications. We assist clients in preparing disclosures and other responsive information. We negotiate "side letters" with government agencies that apply an agency’s general disclosure policy specific to a client or project, giving our client certainty about its obligations.

Lobbyist Registration and Reporting 

Governments are expanding the burdens of lobbying compliance—both by re-defining who is a lobbyist and by imposing additional disclosure obligations on lobbyists. While once generally a narrow universe of professional government relations specialists, "lobbyists" now include a wide range of in-house and third-party persons who communicate with government officials and employees.

Clients confront a patchwork of lobbyist rules. Each government—federal, state and local—regulates lobbying activity as it pertains to interactions with its officials and employees. Consequently, a person engaged in communications with officials or employees from a variety of government authorities must be concerned about lobbyist registration and disclosure requirements of multiple levels of government, throughout the nation.

Lobbyist registration and reporting are of particular concern to investment advisers and other firms that do business with public pension systems and government funds. In response to public corruption scandals, many state and local governments, including in California and New York State, have required placement agents and marketing personnel to register as lobbyists.

Lawyers in our Public Law & Ethics practice advise clients that are registered to lobby at all levels of government as well as those seeking to understand whether registration is necessary or can be avoided. We have experience working throughout the United States, including advising on the federal Lobbyist Disclosure Act and various state and local lobbyist laws. Our capabilities include:

  • Thresholds for Registration: We explain the thresholds for triggering registration so clients can understand when registration is required and when it can be avoided. We work with legal and compliance staff to educate marketing and government relations personnel on the front lines.
  • Registration and Reporting: We prepare and file registrations and periodic disclosures with government agencies on clients’ behalf. We can also educate clients on how to complete disclosures in-house.
  • Consequences of Registration: We counsel clients on special rules applicable to lobbyists, such as pay-to-play limits on campaign contributions [insert link], limits on contingent compensation and revolving door restrictions.

Gifts, Travel and Entertainment 

Government officials and employees are subject to special limits on gifts, including travel and entertainment. Although most gift laws include exceptions—permitted gifts—many governments throughout the United States have tightened these limits in the wake of public corruption scandals.

Government contractors need to be particularly mindful of the changing gift laws. For example, some agencies no longer allow their employees to travel or accept meals at a contractor’s expense while conducting meetings for official business. In other cases, agencies have adopted policies to ensure that those types of expenses are vetted and approved by the agency in advance and that reimbursement does not go directly to the employee.

Lawyers in our Public Law & Ethics practice advise clients on federal, state and local gift laws throughout the nation. We identify relevant limits and assist clients in developing policies to maintain compliance. We assist legal and compliance staff in educating other personnel, particularly those who are directly engaged on the front lines with government officials and employees.

Public Transparency (Public Records and Open Meetings)

Any record submitted to the government—whether as part of a contract proposal, request for information, government investigation or other matter—is presumed to be subject to public disclosure. Nearly every federal, state and local government agency is subject to a "freedom of information" or public records statute that affords the public the right to inspect records created, received or maintained by the government. This presents a unique challenge to companies and firms that do business or share sensitive information with government agencies.

Lawyers in our Public Law & Ethics practice routinely represent both private clients and government agencies throughout the United States in navigating transparency laws, including public records and open meetings laws. Our capabilities include:

  • Contract Provisions and Side Letters: We negotiate contractual provisions and "side letters" for contractors and procuring agencies to give both parties certainty about the information that will be subject to disclosure and the procedures for handling a public records request.
  • Responding to Public Records Requests: When a public records request for sensitive information is made, we help clients identify exemptions that could protect the information, explaining the applicability of those exemptions, and help prepare appropriate redactions.
  • Public Records Disputes: We represent clients in disputes arising from public records requests. We have represented clients in proceedings before state attorneys general throughout the United States and in state and federal courts.
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