A representative from the Justice Department told a Senate panel that the agency is satisfied with the tactics used by prosecutors to pursue corporate criminals.
Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, deputy attorney general Paul McNulty said the agency might consider changes to the prosecution guidelines it adopted after the failure of Enron.
Committee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., and the panel's ranking member, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., have publicly said they are concerned that some of the government's practices border on coercion. The federal judge overseeing the trial against former KPMG executives accused of selling illegal tax shelters, has also criticized the government's methods. The Big Four firm initially capped legal fees to the former employees and then cut them off, which the judge has said curbs defendants' rights to legal counsel.
The Justice Department's guidelines for prosecutors, outlined in a 2003 memo by one of McNulty's predecessors, describe nine factors that prosecutors must consider when weighing whether to indict a company for corporate misconduct. Among them are whether a company has demonstrated cooperation with prosecutors by disclosing legal communications to investigators, and whether it has stopped paying legal fees to employees caught up in investigations. Companies that don't demonstrate cooperation face a greater risk of indictment.
McNulty said that the tactics have helped federal prosecutors to rein in fraud by more than 1,000 companies since 2002.
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