Posted Feb 11, 2014 03:43 pm CST
The U.S. Justice Department issued new rules in 2008 governing out-of-court settlement agreements by federal prosecutors, partly because of unease about deals negotiated by the office of then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, according to a published report.
The Washington Post spoke with three former Justice Department officials who said the department acted to limit prosecutors’ discretion because of concern with settlement deals involving corporate monitors and donations that were becoming more common in federal prosecutors’ office. The Justice Department officials were concerned about appearance problems associated with seven deals negotiated by Christie’s office, the story says.
In one of the deals, federal prosecutors in New Jersey agreed they wouldn’t charge Bristol-Myers Squibb with securities fraud in exchange for the company’s $5 million donation to Christie’s law-school alma mater, Seton Hall. Christie says the idea didn’t come from him.
In another deal, a consulting firm run by former Attorney General John Ashcroft was hired to oversee corporate compliance at a company suspected of paying consulting fees to surgeons who used its products. The fees to be paid to Ashcroft’s company were estimated to range from $28 million to $52 million.
“Spurred on by the Seton Hall deal and several other out-of-court settlements negotiated by Christie’s office,” the Post says, “Justice Department officials ultimately enacted new rules limiting prosecutors’ discretion in reaching such agreements.”
The new rules adopted in 2008 require the deputy attorney general to approve appointments of monitors. They also banned deals requiring companies to make payments to outside groups that weren’t harmed by the misconduct or that didn’t address problems related to the misconduct.
Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts told the Post that Christie used the agreements to hold corporate wrongdoers accountable without punishing innocent employees. “They continue to be used today by prosecutors across the country and remain highly praised by the Obama administration for exactly that reason,” Roberts told the Post.
The Post also spoke with former prosecutors who worked with Christie. They said he acted professionally and never let politics affect his judgment of a case.