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US House passes bill to protect corporate attorney-client privilege

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] passed legislation by voice vote Tuesday that would ban federal prosecutors from threatening to prosecute corporations for refusing to turn over information protected by attorney-client privilege [ABA backgrounder]. The Attorney-Client Privilege Act of 2007 [HR 3013 materials] would bar prosecutors from demanding that a corporation waive its attorney-client privilege and from considering a corporation's cooperation with that demand in deciding whether to prosecute. Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA) [official website] said the bill was necessary to stop over-zealous US attorneys from intimidating corporations from protecting their rights. AP has more.

In 2006, former US Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty [official profile] announced that the Department of Justice would no longer encourage corporations to turn over confidential records [JURIST report] to officials investigating corporate fraud. The McNulty Memorandum [PDF text] revised portions of the 2003 Thompson Memorandum [PDF text], which included business record turnover as a factor prosecutors could use in determining whether corporations were cooperating with investigations, by requiring prosecutors to receive McNulty's approval before seeking investigative facts gathered by corporate counsel and protected by attorney-client privilege.

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