In the latest assault on the McNulty memo, a bipartisan group of 32 former U.S. Attorneys has written a letter to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asking him to hold a vote on a bill that would shore up attorney-client privilege for corporations.
The letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., marks the first time a group of the Justice Department’s own have panned the memo, which allows federal prosecutors to pressure, and in some circumstance force, corporations to waive their privilege, usually in return for leniency.
"The widespread practice of requiring waiver has led to the erosion not only of the privilege itself, but also to the constitutional rights of the employees who are caught up, often tangentially, in business investigations," the letter says.
The bill would bar the practice. Prosecutors would no longer be able to use a waiver as a factor in determining whether to indict a corporation, and they would also be prohibited from compelling a corporation to submit its attorneys' work product. The House passed a similar bill last fall.
Justice officials have argued that the legislation would weaken the government's ability to uncover corporate fraud and wrongdoing to the detriment of pension holders and investors. "There are some people who favor legislation. We think and continue to think that the McNulty memo is working and has worked," Attorney General Michael Mukasey told reporters earlier this month. "There were either no or very, very, very small numbers for actual requests of waiver of the privilege. There were requests for information."