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Chamber Warns of Threat to Attorney-Client Privilege

Thursday, October 13, 2005 - 8:00pm

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Chamber of Commerce today urged the U.S. Sentencing Commission to overturn a guideline that has been interpreted to require businesses and employees to waive their attorney-client privilege. This privilege ensures the protection of free and open communication with attorneys.

"Americans' right to the attorney-client privilege is threatened," said Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue. "The privilege is at the heart of a defendant's right to effective counsel and is a cornerstone of basic due process."

The SEC, the Department of Justice, and other enforcement agencies routinely require privilege waivers. This is a critical issue facing businesses and employees since it has a tremendous impact on internal company communications, according to the Chamber. If people cannot trust the confidentiality of their legal advisors, they will be much less likely to raise and address problems, such as complying with laws — including Sarbanes-Oxley — and uncovering fraud.

"Required waivers paralyze employers and employees," continued Donohue. "We're jeopardizing the free flow of information and eroding one of our basic rights."

The Chamber is working with a coalition that includes the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Bar Association, the Association of Corporate Counsel, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to overturn a U.S. Sentencing Commission guideline on privilege waivers that was adopted in 2004.

The Chamber also intends to advocate policy changes at the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and if necessary, take this issue to the courts.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.

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