The Justice Department has placed new restraints on federal prosecutors conducting corporate investigations, easing tactics adopted in the wake of the Enron collapse, reports the New York Times. Under the changes, outlined in a memo from a deputy attorney general, federal prosecutors will no longer have blanket authority to ask routinely that a company under investigation waive the confidentiality of its legal communications or risk being indicted. Instead, they will need written approval for waivers from the deputy attorney general, and can make such requests only rarely.
Another change prohibits prosecutors from considering, when weighing whether to seek the indictment of a company, whether it is paying the legal fees of an employee caught up in the inquiry. Experts says the changes make it easier for corporations to defend themselves. The revised guidelines follow criticism that the tactics used in recent years against companies like the drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb and the accounting firm KPMG were coercive and unconstitutional. they are being made at a time when companies are seeking – and receiving – greater protection from criminal and regulatory scrutiny.