The Justice Department has agreed to back off hardball tactics to force corporations to turn over confidential communications between their attorneys and company executives under scrutiny by prosecutors.
The new rules, outlined Wednesday in a Justice Department letter to the Senate, further ease tough steps taken after the Enron-era scandals to root out white-collar crime. They come after years of lobbying by business and legal groups that argued such sanctions were coercive and unconstitutional.
At issue are corporations’ efforts to avoid being branded as uncooperative during investigations -- potentially leading prosecutors to seek indictments that would publicly scar even innocent businesses forever.
“We will no longer measure cooperation by waiver of the attorney-client privilege,” Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning.
Hours later, Deputy Atty. Gen. Mark Filip sent the panel a letter outlining the changes that “the department intends to make in the coming weeks.”
“I think we all very much share an appreciation for the foundational role that the attorney-client privilege plays in our legal system,” Filip wrote.