Ellen Podgor at the indispensable White Collar Crime Prof Blog has a post about the federal compliance monitors program here. It links to an article in the Washington Post here, and sets out the text of proposed federal legislation to regulate the monitors and their appointments. (Our earlier posts on the subject are here.)
In the Washington Post article — which deals mainly with how U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey almost became a monitor before his appointment as AG — reporter Carrie Johnson nicely summarizes the monitor-program controversy this way:
“Scrutiny of the monitor arrangements and complaints about their secrecy have mounted in recent weeks after a deal worth as much as $52 million was awarded to a consulting firm led by former attorney general John D. Ashcroft. The Justice Department launched a policy review last year to determine whether national standards should be imposed to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Lawmakers and legal experts have sounded alarms about possible political patronage, raising questions about whether prosecutors have steered the sole-source contracts to people with ties to the Bush administration, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission. In the vast majority of cases, monitors operate without a judge’s oversight of their work and their bills. The agreements have risen more than sevenfold in recent years as prosecutors have settled corporate fraud cases rather than bringing them to trial, which might destroy the business and cost employees their jobs. “
The bill proposed by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) would remove most of the discretion for the appointment of monitors from the hands of individual U.S. attorneys. It would also create a mechanism to set their pay and hold them accountable for reporting back to the Justice Department and the federal courts. Part of the bill reads:
SEC. 3. FEDERAL MONITORS.
(a) In General- A Federal monitor shall oversee a deferred prosecution agreement.
(b) Appointment of Federal Monitors- A Federal monitor shall be appointed by an independent third party (a United States district court judge or a United States magistrate judge) from a pool of pre-qualified firms or individuals (or both).
(c) Qualifications of Federal Monitors- A Federal monitor shall have experience in criminal and civil litigation.
(d) Payment of Federal Monitors- A Federal monitor shall be paid according to a pre-determined fee schedule set by the United States district court.
(e) Report Requirement in Deferred Prosecution Agreement-
(1) A deferred prosecution agreement shall include a requirement that a Federal monitor submit reports to the United States attorney and to the United States district court.
(2) A deferred prosecution agreement shall include the number and frequency of reports required by a Federal monitor.