The government’s stepped-up campaign against white-collar crime, nearing its fifth year, has been dealt several setbacks by judges who concluded in some cases that prosecutors and regulators had overstepped.
“Whenever you see a storm surge of fraud and criminal activity you see a response by the regulators and prosecutors to stop that,” said John Carney, a former securities fraud chief with the U.S. Justice Department who’s now a partner with the law firm of Baker Hostetler in New York.
Now, he said, “You’re seeing the pendulum swing back.”
The issue was spotlighted by a court decision on Tuesday when a federal judge in Manhattan ruled prosecutors had unconstitutionally pressured Big Four accounting firm KPMG [KPMG.UL] not to pay legal fees for 16 former partners accused of setting up illegal tax shelters for wealthy clients.
Pressure to cut off legal fees arose from a 2003 Justice Department memorandum drafted by then deputy attorney general Larry Thompson. The so-called Thompson Memo held out the prospect of more lenient treatment for companies facing possible indictment if they cooperated with prosecutors.