Six weeks before he quit as Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Justice Department’s Corporate Fraud Task Force. The same day, a federal judge dismissed indictments against 13 former KPMG executives. The American Lawyer calls the action “a very pointed rebuke to the Justice Department for some of the more aggressive tactics used by federal prosecutors over the past five years.” Justice’s corporate fraud record, says the magazine, amounts to “a long litany of achievements punctuated by disappointment and controversy.”
At the five-year anniversary event, Gonzales said the task force had won an unprecedented 1,236 corporate fraud convictions, including 214 chief executive officers and presidents. The American Lawyer investigated Justice’s record, with the department refusing to provide much of the information requested. There was a precipitous decline in the number of major corporate fraud indictments since Bush’s re-election. There were 357 indictments in major corporate fraud cases between 2002 and 2005. Only 14 indictments were identified by the Justice Department as significant corporate fraud cases in 2006. There have been only 12 major corporate fraud cases indicted so far in 2007. Has the problem of corporate fraud really been solved, as Gonzales suggested at his celebration in July? Or has the Justice Department simply stopped trying as hard to prosecute it?