There is more at stake than money in the pretrial skirmishing over whether the government interfered with the right to counsel by pressuring KPMG to limit or withhold the payment of attorney fees to firm employees the government was investigating.

Although defense lawyers in the massive tax shelter prosecution say the federal government should be ordered to pay the fees of 16 former partners or employees, Southern District Judge Lewis Kaplan’s decision to hold the government’s feet to the fire on the issue is being watched closely by the defense bar and business groups.