Former U.S. Attorneys Come Out in Favor of Strengthened Corporate Attorney-Client Privilege

    Thirty-three former United States Attorneys have sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy urging passage of the Attorney-Client Privilege Protection Act of 2007, which is currently under review by the Committee, according to the Fulton County Daily Report. The bill would prohibit government investigators from demanding that corporations waive its attorney-client privilege and disclose confidential legal communications in exchange for more lenient treatment. The bill would also prevent the government from penalizing a company for making a valid assertion of the privilege. Lenient treatment would instead be based upon the quality of any assistance provided.

    A number of the former U.S. Attorneys are now white-collar criminal defense attorneys or corporate counsel. None are from Georgia's three U.S. Attorney's offices. They join the Association of Corporate Counsel and others in the Coalition to Protect Attorney-Client Privilege in supporting the legislation. The United States Department of Justice opposes the proposed law, arguing that it might weaken the government's ability to uncover corporate fraud and protect investors and pension holders.

    In 2003, Deputy United States Attorney General Larry D. Thompson set forth the Department of Justice's guidelines for corporate fraud cases in the "Thompson Memorandum." The Thompson Memorandum was criticized by corporate counsel as coercive, abusive and unconstitutional. As a result of this criticism, in 2006, Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty issued the "McNulty Memorandum," amending the Department's guidelines to place more restraints on prosecutors. However the McNulty Memo did not end the criticism since the guidelines are not binding on prosecutors or other federal agencies.
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