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An increasing number of in-house counsel believe attorney-client privilege during government investigations has been damaged, and many companies are boosting their investment in compliance programs to minimize their risk, according to a new Association of Corporate Counsel survey. More than 90% of in-house counsel believe attorney-client privilege during government investigations is non-existent or severely damaged. In the association’s 2005 survey, 74% of respondents expressed those views. To reduce the risk of corporate scandal, 70% of companies conduct risk assessments, compared with 58% in 2005. Companies use internal document reviews and executive and employee interviews to gather information for risk assessments. Compliance continues to be a high priority for companies with 67% of all organizations spending up to $250,000 a year on ethics and compliance and 37% of companies with 25,000 to 49,999 employees spending between $1 and $5 million a year. More than 75% of companies who responded to the survey also conduct formal Code of Conduct trainings. The results illustrate the proactive approach of in-house counsel to improving their compliance programs and evaluating their efforts, said Deborah House, the vice president and deputy general counsel of the Washington-based association. “However, the ongoing threats to attorney-client privilege have taken a toll,” House said. Of the 458 in-house counsel who participated in the survey, more than 45% were from publicly traded companies. The association conducted the survey with Corpedia Inc., a Phoenix-based risk assessment and ethics and compliance company.

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