New York - Agreeing to pay a $456 million fine to the federal government, Big Four accounting firm KPMG LLP will escape a criminal indictment for its sale of questionable tax shelters from 1996 to 2002.

After a summer of negotiations, it's a small price to pay for the firm, which would have been barred from working with public company clients if found guilty. As part of the deferred prosecution agreement, the charges will be dismissed on Dec. 31, 2006, if KPMG lives up to all of the terms of the agreement made with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and the Internal Revenue Service

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