Mouthpieces As Whistle Blowers

This just in: lawyers who learn their clients are white-collar crooks can tell authorities about it. And they need not feel like finks about violating client confidentiality.

That’s right. Per a recent ruling by the American Bar Association, restrictions have been loosened as to when attorneys can blow the whistle on clients who are up to no good, fraudulently speaking.

The ABA’s change of heart — in the aftermath of Enron, Tyco and WorldCom book-cooking — results in a formal position that declares, in effect, that serious societal concerns trump client confidences. It’s also seen as a pre-emptive move on government regulators who were starting to get heavy-handed.

According to incoming President Dennis Archer, the ABA has learned the lesson that a lot of little guys were devastated by those notorious accounting scams. “We’re talking about the employees who lost not just their jobs but their pensions,” pointed out Archer.

In the end, it made eminently good sense for the ABA to give its blessing to the disclosure of information that could forestall a financial crisis.

What makes less sense, however, is that the measure barely passed, 218-201.

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