Thursday, August 28, 2008

A real win-win day for the privilege

It was a good day for attorney-client privilege junkies like me here at ACC
(and that means if you're corporate counsel, it was a REALLY good day for
you and your clients' rights): the DOJ finally issued its promised
revisions to the McNulty Memo and (are you seated?) actually reversed every
single issue we've protested in the Holder/Thompson/McNulty Memo process.
Every one. No more privilege waiver as a condition of cooperation; no more
assertion that work product claims aren't valid if the work product includes
otherwise non-privileged facts; no more forcing companies to fire employees
or revoke their right to attorneys fees before the facts are in and as a
condition of cooperation credit; no more tactics that suggest that companies
have to throw employees under the bus in order to defend themselves.

The link to the new document that governs US attorney consideration of the
criteria of corporate cooperation is not yet up on the DOJ's site, but we've
got a copy
. And we've had the DAG's assurances - he was looking us in the
eye when he said so.

Now here's the really interesting part: DOJ didn't issue a new memo. They
instead inserted this new guidance into the US attorney's manual as a new
section of the manual. In case you're not familiar with it, the manual is
not a policy which can reside at the bottom of the fifth file cabinet down
the hall. It is on every prosecutor's desktop and is the bedrock governing
prosecutorial conduct. US Attorneys take it very seriously and are very
proud of it, too. What this signals is DOJ's attempt to not only amend the
policy with words, but also to convey to prosecutors in the field that their
feet will be held to the fire for non-compliance with this policy. That was
clearly not the message that the previous memos (residing in the fifth
cabinet down the hall) conveyed to prosecutors prior to this announcement.

And so ... I still want legislation that provides finality and comprehensive
coverage across every agency of the US government with a copycat McNulty
policy (since DOJ reversing it's policy does nothing to reign in the SEC,
the DOL, the HUD, the IRS, and so on), but I am proud to announce that we
have won a DOJ policy with teeth (and trust me when I tell you that we've
fought hard for this for over 3 years, so I'm serious when I say we've
"won"). We have a DOJ policy that includes paragraphs on the importance of
the attorney-client privilege to the responsible behavior of well-governed
and well-counseled companies. We have a Department that is committed to
assuring the success of this policy. And we have an agreement that
privilege belongs to the client, and it is not the province of DOJ to
request, demand, or dismiss its waiver at will.

After watching so much political convention coverage in the last few days, I
feel like I should end my post as virtually every speaker for the last 3
days has: "God Bless You, God Bless DAG Filip, and God Bless the Our Legal
System and its Protection of the Fundamental Client Right to Attorney-Client
Confidentiality!"

-Susan Hackett

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