DOJ ends Holder-era ‘slush fund’ payouts to outside groups
In a memo sent to 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices early Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would end the practice that allowed companies to meet settlement burdens by giving money to groups that were neither victims nor parties to the case.
Sessions said the money should, instead, go to the Treasury Department or victims.
“When the federal government settles a case against a corporate wrongdoer, any settlement funds should go first to the victims and then to the American people—not to bankroll third-party special interest groups or the political friends of whoever is in power,” Sessions said in a statement.
Officials told Fox News the third-party settlement changes were an issue of “good governance.”
“Unfortunately, in recent years the Department of Justice has sometimes requires or encouraged defendants to make these payments to third parties as a condition of settlement,” Sessions added. “With this directive, we are ending this practice and ensuring that settlement funds are only used to compensate victims, redress harm, and punish and deter unlawful conduct.”
Bank of America, for example, was required to pay nonprofit organizations as part of a record $17 billion settlement to resolve an investigation into its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crisis. The agreement was struck under then-Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department.
The receiving groups included organizations that provide housing counseling, foreclosure prevention and community redevelopment assistance.
Gibson Guitar Corp. also had to contribute to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to resolve a criminal investigation into allegations it illegally imported exotic wood.
It’s hard to say what kind of cases could be impacted by the change and how. The new policy allows only for restitution to victims or payment that “directly remedies the harm that is sought to be addressed.”
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform President Lisa A. Rickard commended Sessions’ decision for directing DOJ officials to “seek justice” in a manner “consistent with pubic interest,” adding: “Not how much money they can generate for outside interest groups unconnected with the underlying enforcement action.”
Chairman of House Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also applauded the move.
“Since 2010, I’ve been working to shine a light on these misdeeds and to get answers from the Department,” Grassley said. “Today’s announcement is welcomed news for those of us who respect the rule of law and demand a more accountable government.”
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- Tagged: Chairman of House Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley, DOJ ends Holder-era ‘slush fund’ payouts to outside groups, then-Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform President Lisa A. Rickard