Valarie Hays leads the Chicago office’s White Collar Defense & Investigations practice. Ms. Hays is a trial lawyer and former federal prosecutor who represents companies and individuals in government inquiries and complex commercial litigation. She also conducts corporate internal investigations and advises clients on the execution of their compliance programs across a broad range of industry sectors, including healthcare, financial services, retail, and oil and gas. A first chair trial lawyer, Ms. Hays has tried 17 jury trials over the course of her career and has obtained numerous multimillion dollar settlements for her corporate clients, typically after prevailing on summary judgment rulings.

Ms. Hays is known for her strong courtroom presence, her strategic ability to find and leverage the weaknesses in her opponents’ cases, and her success in winning challenging cases and obtaining prosecution declinations. Most recently, in 2022, she has obtained four prosecution declinations on behalf of her corporate and individual clients in DOJ and USAO investigations involving alleged criminal antitrust violations, fraud, and False Claims Act violations. In 2021, following a three-week trial, she won an acquittal on all counts for her client, an attorney who was charged in a federal indictment with novel bankruptcy fraud theories.

Ms. Hays’ clients also hire her to conduct sensitive investigations. Ms. Hays recently was retained by a United States sports organization to conduct a workplace culture investigation. Ms. Hays also was retained by the Board of Commissioners for the Chicago Park District to lead an independent investigation into the Chicago Park District’s response to allegations of sexual assault and a widespread culture of sexual harassment, bullying and hazing within the lifeguard community. Ms. Hays also has been retained to conduct sensitive investigations related to the sexual assault of a hospital employee, the death of a student athlete, gender and racial discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and police department practices.

Experience

  • Financial institution in DOJ and OCC investigation of lending practices and BSA/AML program. Obtained prosecution declination for client.
  • Global device manufacturer in an internal investigation related to allegations of false statements to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agents.
  • Global device manufacturer in multiple internal investigations related to allegations of employee misconduct, including violations of the company’s conflict of interest policies, falsification of work orders, whistleblower retaliation, workplace safety, and theft of proprietary information.
  • Police department in investigating internal complaints of harassment and discrimination and evaluating the department’s policies and procedures.
  • Hospital in investigating and responding to a hostage situation.
  • Automotive component manufacturer and its CEO in DOJ Antitrust investigation related to allegations of bid rigging. Obtained prosecution declination for the company and CEO.
  • Flooring company in DOJ Antitrust investigation related to allegations of bid rotation. Obtained prosecution declination for client.
  • Chemical company in an internal structuring investigation.
  • General contractor and its president in DOJ investigation related to alleged Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (“DBE”) fraud. Obtained prosecution declination for client.
  • Heating and cooling company and its owners in City of Chicago investigation related to alleged Minority Business Enterprise (“MBE”) and Women Business Enterprise (“WBE”) fraud. Obtained favorable settlement for clients.
  • Manager of security system supplier in DOJ investigation of MBE and DBE fraud. Obtained prosecution declination for client.

Perspectives

DOJ Policy Changes Raise Antitrust Leniency Questions (pdf)
Law360
Trailblazers: How to Advance the Standard of Care in Your Community Safely
Panelist, Conference for American Academy of Ophthalmology
Driving Diversity in Law & Leadership Summit
Panelist, CenterForce
Responding to Government Investigations: Considerations for Audit and Risk Committees
Moderator, Bank Audit & Risk Committees Conference
SEC Focus on ESG Has Expanded to Workplace Culture and Sexual Harassment Investigations
Advisory
More

Recognition

The Legal 500 US
International Litigation (2022)
Corporate Investigations and White-Collar Criminal Defense (2022)
Chambers USA
Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Illinois) (2021-2022)
Illinois Super Lawyers
Criminal Defense: White Collar, Civil Litigation, and General Litigation (2017–2022)
“Rising Stars” (2013–2015)
More

Credentials

Education
  • JD, Harvard Law School
  • BA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, summa cum laude
Admissions
  • Illinois
  • Northern District of Illinois Trial Bar
  • US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
  • US District Court, Northern District of Florida
  • US District Court, Northern District of Illinois
  • US District Court, Southern District of Indiana
  • US District Court, Southern District of Iowa
  • US District Court, Western District of Michigan
Government & Military Service
  • Assistant US Attorney, Chicago
Clerkships
  • US District Court, Northern District of Illinois, The Honorable Suzanne Conlon
Activities
  • American Bar Association, Section of Litigation
  • Former Board of Directors, Finance and Governance Committee, Federal Bar Association
  • Board of Directors, Vice President, Harvard Law Society of Illinois
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • Women’s White Collar Defense Association (WWCDA)
Overview

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