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For many months, sound and fury had been building about the Thompson memo. Organizations ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had called for reform of the document, which laid out the factors that prosecutors must consider when deciding whether to charge a corporation with a crime. To its detractors, the memo was a symbol of prosecutorial overstepping. They charged that it eroded the attorney-client privilege and trampled the rights of individuals. In December, deputy attorney general Paul McNulty gave the critics what they wanted: a major shift in U.S. Department of Justice policy.

Lost in the discussion about what to do next was the story of the origin of the memo. It starts with a veteran New York prosecutor who participated in the creation of the memo eight years ago and today is running the hard-nosed prosecution of KPMG, where the memo has taken center stage.

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