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Businesses Reaching Settlements With Justice Dept. Before New Regime Takes Over

Is the Bush Justice Department going to give a better deal to business? Some appear to think so.

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has reached more than a dozen business-related settlements since the presidential election, with more in the pipeline for January, prompting lawyers and interest groups to assert that companies are seeking more favorable terms before the new administration arrives.
The climate for business settlements could grow more harsh when Obama appointees seize the reins at the Justice Department, corporate lawyers say. They point to statements by Attorney General-designate Eric H. Holder Jr., who told an audience last month that he would expand the focus of federal prosecutors into corporate suites.
A review of 15 agreements involving corporations since early November suggests that much of the alleged misconduct dates back five years or more, provoking questions about why the cases took so long to mature and why resolutions are coming with only weeks left in President Bush’s term.
“What they obviously are trying to do is take advantage of an administration that’s deemed to be more friendly to business,” said Cono R. Namorato, a Washington defense lawyer who ran the Internal Revenue Service’s office of professional responsibility earlier in the Bush administration. “I know of no tax reason for doing it now.”
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