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In court and at the negotiation table, US Justice Department prosecutors and defence lawyers from big firms often take differing views of the law. Less common is the case in which a different view of the law makes the firm, and not the client, the focus of a government investigation.

Clifford Chance (CC) found itself in that position over its apparent misunderstanding of data-access regulations concerning the export of defence and military equipment. On Wednesday (29 August), the firm agreed to pay a $132,000 civil penalty, along with lost wages to three unidentified individuals, to resolve a Justice Department investigation into the firm’s refusal last year to allow dual citizens and non-US citizens to work on a document review project.

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