Perfect Timing

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department announced guidelines Monday to prevent the sort of conflict-of-interest accusations that followed its decision to steer a private contract worth tens of millions of dollars to former Attorney General John Ashcroft to monitor a large out-of-court settlement.

The announcement came on the eve of scheduled Congressional testimony by Mr. Ashcroft to explain the circumstances of the no-bid 18-month contract, worth $28 million to $52 million, that calls for him to monitor a settlement between the government and an Indiana medical supply company.


Original DVD cover.

Wow! Talk about coincidences! They changed the guidelines just in time to take some of the heat off one of their own (and let one of their own make megabucks).

Until now, the Justice Department has allowed individual federal prosecutors who do not work in Washington to select outside lawyers to monitor out-of-court settlements involving large companies, with the companies paying the monitors’ fees.

Under the new guidelines, the monitors must now be chosen by a committee and approved in Washington by the office of the deputy attorney general, the department’s No. 2 official.

The timing of the announcement appears intended to undercut some of the criticism of Mr. Ashcroft and the department that is expected to emerge Tuesday at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.

…snip…

Justice Department officials said the internal deliberations that resulted in the new guidelines began long before the disclosure of Mr. Ashcroft’s contract with Zimmer Holdings, the Indiana supply company, which had been under investigation on allegations of paying kickbacks to doctors.

…snip…

[…] the Justice Department has moved to resolve dozens of criminal investigations involving large companies with pretrial agreements. According to a study by two researchers in Texas, there were 35 such agreements last year, up from 20 in 2006.

Among the companies that entered into the agreements last year were British Petroleum, Union Bank of California, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer and Zimmer Holdings.

Zimmer hired Mr. Ashcroft as its monitor at the suggestion of the United States attorney in New Jersey, Christopher J. Christie, who had worked under Mr. Ashcroft at the Justice Department and pursued the investigation of the company.

…snip…

The new monitoring guidelines offer no rules to help prosecutors determine how much a monitor should be paid. In Mr. Ashcroft’s case, the fees were determined in negotiations between Zimmer and his firm, the Ashcroft Group.

Outside lawyers who have reviewed Mr. Ashcroft’s fee structure said it was not out of line. But Professor [Peter J. Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University who is a specialist in white-collar crime] said he believed that many companies were willing to pay exorbitant fees to a monitor in hopes of leniency.

And just how much did Zimmer pay Chimpy’s little buddy?
From the Washington Post:

Ashcroft’s consulting firm stands to collect between $28 million and $52 million over 18 months for reviewing the operations of Zimmer Holdings, an Indiana company that makes replacement hips and knees. Zimmer last year settled government charges over kickbacks it allegedly provided doctors in exchange for using its products.

…snip…

Zimmer paid the Ashcroft Group $7.5 million between last September and January, according to information provided to the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Ashcroft and about a half-dozen senior staff members of his firm are covered under a flat $750,000 monthly payment from Zimmer. Other top lawyers affiliated with Ashcroft’s consulting business are billing as much as $895 per hour under the agreement, while administrative support staff members are billing $50 to $150 per hour, Senate aides said.

Bills submitted by monitors for the other four companies involved in the settlement are less than half of what the Ashcroft group has charged, averaging a total of about $2 million each, the aides said. Zimmer is by far the largest company in the investigation, and it paid most of the financial penalties to the government under the settlement.

9 Comments

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9 responses to “Perfect Timing

  1. Friend of the court

    That kind of money could cause a guy to “not remember, or recall remembering”, a whole lot of stuff.

  2. nonnie9999

    fotc,
    i wonder if those leaving the chimpy administration sell off their memories in bulk or by individual scandals.

  3. nightowl724

    Well, everything is cheaper by the dozen!

  4. Friend of the court

    On the installment plan. The problem, for the Chimpy Gang, will be that purchased loyalty goes to the highest bidder. Although, keeping their sorry butts out of the slammer may motivate a few, if we can get some justice back into the Department of Justice. Once the “no bid” contract golden goose stops laying, the aspin leaves may turn.

  5. nonnie9999

    is it loyalty or extortion? they know where some of the bodies are buried. the phrase, hush money, comes to mind, payable through faux news or various publishers via lucrative contracts and advances.

  6. Is it the dollar amounts involved in the contract that offends you, or just John D.?

    I suspect you question Ashcroft’s integrity only because you bought into the innuendo, and Dem-back-room conspiracy theory smoke.

    Ashcroft was continually vilified by the Left during his confirmation hearings and his administration of the Department of Justice. Why? Because his principles scared his unprincipled inquisitors. His principles were and are diametrically opposed to those sitting on The Hill as well as their allies – those sitting in powerful newspaper board rooms.

    I believe – with my eyes and ears wide open – that John Ashcroft, had he been a Clinton appointee, would have done a much better job of managing the JD. But because he followed Reno, and because he had to do so much “house cleaning” before he could serve the people of America, and because he had to pry the controlling hands of the JD off the wheel so he could steer it back on course, he made a bunch of enemies.

    I believe Ashcroft is hated because he had the nerve to oppose Socialist positions on matters of law and societal/cultural issues. Ashcroft, along with others, believed (and still believe) that his interpretation of the Constitution more closely mirrored the views of The Founders. Nietzsche and Jung weren’t on his “must read and then swallow their views of the world and life and religion whole” list.

    Question: Are you a hysterical raisin because you have irrefutable proof that Ashcroft is a criminal, or because his views and philosophies so dramatically differ from your own, your peers, or your college profs? Where and from whom you get your information is as important as what that information might be.

  7. nonnie9999

    lowell,
    you can call me names and accuse me of drinking whatever kool-aid you think i partook in, but answer something for me, if you wouldn’t mind. if i am so wrong in my opposition to what took place, then why did the justice department find it necessary to change the guidelines?
    just for the record, i never called ashcroft a criminal. i never said that he did anything illegal in this case. in fact, that’s what bothers me–that it is legal for ex-officials to make huge amounts of money by securing contracts from former associates. what’s wrong with getting bids for government contracts? was ashcroft’s firm the only one who could have possibly done the job at hand? how do we know that there was not another one that might have done the job better and for a lower price?
    let’s turn this around. if it was a democratic ex-attorney general who had secured a huge contract from the justice department, would you be so complacent about it? i know that even if it was a democrat and not a republican, i would still feel the same way. i don’t like ex-legislators becoming lobbyists, and i don’t like them getting government contracts, no matter what their party affiliation.

  8. Hey Nonnie,

    I don’t think I called YOU any names. I didn’t accuse you of drinking coolaid … and I don’t question your “right” to question anything. My question (pardon the repetition) was and is: where do you get your information? I wondered, after reading your blog, why you seemed to be so angry/upset, even hostile toward John D. I still do. This is not meant to put you on the defensive, but here it is: Has John D. done anything to you personally, that you would take such a harsh line – question his integrity, etc. I suspect you’re not a Democratic party hack … but …

    I, too, join you in wondering why ex-gov officials secure huge amounts of money for their services … until I do some research. I taken a good look at a lot of no-bid deals done by dems and repubs, and many times these super-smart people are the right people for the jobs. After reading up on John D’s qualifications, he seemed to be a great fit for his clients. He speaks their language, and can relate to their plight. They’ve been bullied, in my opinion, just like Ashcroft, by some pretty shady characters in Congress and various government agencies … the same people trying to take them down. It’s as if any prosperous company is put into the Enron family; the brush that’s used to paint these very good companies is why too broad.

    Note: I am not a corporate geek. I’m a writer. So when a guy like John D., super-educated, experienced and morally sound, is elevated to a position like Attorney General, he’s not only been vetted but he’s got to be a pretty bright (read “smart”) guy. [Reno was bright, as were many of her predecessors, but she … like many of her predecessors … made some significant mistakes during her administration. I’m not saying that Ashcroft was or is faultless. What I am saying is that he’s been unfairly portrayed by some ax-grinders.]

    Oh, and my views have nothing to do with party affiliation. I consider myself a true Independent. I really try to do my homework on people and their positions. So, I’m with you on that … “I would still feel the same way” if he was a dem.

    You and I agree on ex-government types becoming lobbyists, too … but I don’t think Ashcroft (and others) are “lobbyists” just because they once worked for government(s) and then secure contracts with our government or its agencies. It could be that these entrepreneur-types see a need and think they can fill it.

    Back to the point I was trying to make earlier, about “bright” people. These intelligent folks tend, like the proverbial cream, to rise to the top. They shouldn’t drop out of life, or business, because they once served in government. Maybe they’re the best for the job. What do you think? And, if you’ve done your research, who do you think could do a better job for this Indiana company?

    Well … those are a few disjointed reflections and responses. I didn’t mean to sound shrill. I can see why you might think that from my earlier comment. Sorry. I just want some honest debate. Name-calling is not what I’m about. I want the truth. And I can “handle the truth,” to borrow from Jack’s super movie line.

  9. nonnie9999

    hello, lowell, i apologize for taking so long to answer, but things have been hectic here, and i have not been very diligent.
    i get my information from a lot of different sources, because i don’t trust anyone. i was on a jury for a very long time many years ago. we were not allowed to watch the news or read the papers, so i had friends collect the articles about the trial so i could read them after we brought in a verdict. when i read the newspaper clippings, i could hardly believe that the reporters had been sitting in the same courthouse as me. the reporting was at times sloppy, and, at others, just completely incorrect. i learned then that anything in the papers or on tv or radio must be taken with a huge dose of incredulity.
    if you read all the comments here at the raisin, you would have found that there were comments where i actually praised john ashcroft. i gave him props for refusing to sign what alberto gonzales and andy card brought him when the poor man was recovering from major surgery. i think that he has integrity. on the other hand, i think he’s stuck in the 1950’s or something. i think he made a fool of himself by spending $80.000 to cover statues! 🙄 he can have whatever religious beliefs he wants to have, but they should all be left outside the office of the attorney general, or any other government office for that matter.
    as for ashcroft’s latest gig handed to him on a silver platter, i do have a huge problem with it. apparently, i am not the only one, since the justice department changed its own rules. i don’t know if ashcroft is the best person for the job or not. i only know that nobody else was allowed to prove that s/her was better suited and could do the job at a lower price. when i have work done on my house, i get several estimates. i am forced to live quite frugally, and every penny that i spend has to be spent wisely. i am not an economist, but i know that i should not just give my business to the first person who comes along. i expect those running the government to use the same common sense. i don’t think that is unreasonable.