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Call it a proactive strategy. Covington & Burling got out front of the competition with a post-election e-mail warning about the potential for Congress to investigate those who have benefited from Bush administration. The message: lawyer up. A white-collar defense alert sent to Covington clients a week after November’s midterm Democratic victory in Congress and posted online warned that the new majorities in both houses “can be expected to undertake aggressive oversight and investigations of the Bush Administration and those perceived to have benefited from the initiatives.” The prediction comes from a fellow who should know. Lanny Breuer is not only co-chairman of Covington’s white-collar defense practice and based in Washington, he also served as special counsel to President Bill Clinton and represented Clinton and White House staff during the impeachment hearings and trial. Breuer represented National Security Advisor Samuel R. “Sandy” Berger in the Justice Department investigation of documents missing from the National Archives. “I am a true-blue Democrat,” Breuer said, but added the alert was “written respectfully.” Who’s likely in the cross hairs? Look out for anything from oil company profits, drug safety, executive pay, stock-options backdating, fraud in Hurricane Katrina relief, telecommunications companies that responded to warrantless wiretap orders and potential Iraq reconstruction fraud. “These lines of inquiry offer the ‘triple play’ of embarrassing the Administration, uncovering potential corporate abuses and highlighting the prior Congress’s abdication of its oversight responsibilities,” Breuer wrote. In the House, expect presumptive Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to channel investigations to a government reform committee to be chaired by Representative Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and to an energy committee with Representative John Dingell, D-Mich. In the Senate, expect Senator Carl Levin, D-Mich., to be involved in high-profile investigations when the new Congress kicks off in January. The admonition for corporate clients to get ready may not be unique, but Breuer frankly laid on the line the political calculations that come into play. “Different firms do different things. We tried to be more substantive,” he said. Companies that are perceived or portrayed as beneficiaries of legislative or regulatory largess from the Bush administration will face the most immediate risk, he said. “Congressional investigators can be expected to look tirelessly for sweetheart contracts, administrative cost overruns, waste and fraud, and narrow appropriations earmarks,” the warning states. “A few years ago it was the environment, and now it’s options backdating,” Breuer said.

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