The U.S. Justice Department has reached more than a dozen business-related settlements since the Presidential election. More were in the pipeline for January. Companies were seeking more favorable terms before the new Administration. The climate for business settlements could grow more harsh when Obama appointees seize the reins at the Justice Department, corporate lawyers say. The new Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., says he will expand “the focus of federal prosecutors into corporate suites.”
Justice Department officials claim there is nothing unusual about end-of-year settlements. They defend their record in investigating and prosecuting corporate misdeeds. A spokesperson for the Department says:
While the Department reaches these kinds of agreements throughout the year, it’s not unusual for parties to resolve enforcement matters by the end of the calendar year.
Since November, the Justice Department has announced 19 settlements or plea deals with companies, compared with 16 in the same time frame the year before. In 2006, Department officials announced five business settlements in the same time frame. Patrick Burns, a spokesman for Taxpayers Against Fraud, a nonprofit group that supports whistleblowers, observed: “This is traditionally the time to ram a settlement through because no one notices. Putting it out between Christmas and New Year’s is brilliant.”
Ellen S. Podgor, a law professor at Stetson University who tracks corporate fraud developments, believes the timing of the Siemens case raised questions about “an end-of-the-year crunch.” She told the Washington Post: “It seemed to me to be interesting coming at the end of the year.” On her blog devoted to developments in white-collar crime, Professor Podgor has bestowed a 2008 “best timing” award on Siemens for reaching a plea deal with the government before a change in Presidential Administration.
Source: Washington Post
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