Tough Testimony for Renowned Chicago Lawyer

This hasn’t been a great week for former Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson. Now a well-known lawyer at a prominent Chicago law firm, he spent several days this week testifying as a witness at the fraud trial of former Hollinger International corporate executives. The company is the parent of the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper, and the executives are accused of having looted it of some $84 million over three years, largely from allegedly illegal side deals concerning newspaper sales.

Thompson’s own business conduct related to Hollinger is not at issue. But the former governor’s testimony concerning his work as a Hollinger corporate board member and chair of its audit committee did not appear likely to promote his reputation for attention to detail. As the Chicago Tribune puts it: “After three grueling days in federal court … Thompson stepped off the witness stand Thursday with his competence as a Hollinger International director in serious doubt but without wavering from his story that he was duped.” Among other testimony, Thompson said he approved $200 million in payments without reviewing supporting documentation.

In a separate article referenced in this post, the Tribune points out that corporate governance standards have become much more stringent since the period some five to 10 years ago that Thompson was testifying about.

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