Alberto Gonzales and E-Mails: Is Silence Golden?

By Stephanie Francis Ward

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice released more than 3,000 pages of internal e-mails related to the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. And not one was from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. That’s because the nation’s top lawyer doesn’t communicate through e-mail, according to a Justice Department spokesman.

Other senior administration officials also avoid the “send” button. President Bush has acknowledged he does not use e-mail, and media reports say several of his cabinet members, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, follow that practice.

For more, see ABA Online Journal.

Is US Losing its Tech Edge?

THE BROWSER — Anaylzing Tech Biz for Fortune

A Beeb headline caught my eye this morning: US ‘no longer technology king.’ First of all, I didn’t know that the U.S. had been the technology king. Personally, I’d always thought of us as very well respected digital duke, or perhaps a computing cardinal; in either case, a first among equals.

Second, if the U.S. was the tech king, who has usurped the throne? We’ve been reading a lot lately about U.S. economic and scientific competitiveness (expertly investigated by Fortune’s Rik Kirkland about a year ago), and we all know that European and east Asian countries are waaay ahead when it comes to 3G mobile networks and high-speed broadband infrastructure.

For more on this important topics, see THE BROWSER.

In Nonprosecution Deal Over Tax Shelters, Jenkens & Gilchrist to Pay $76M and Shut Doors

NEW YORK LAW JOURNAL – March 30, 2007 – Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have entered into a nonprosecution agreement with Dallas law firm Jenkens & Gilchrist over its past involvement in illegal tax shelters, a scandal that has already fatally crippled the once-thriving firm.

Between 1998 and 2003, the firm’s Chicago-based tax shelter practice provided hundreds of legal opinion letters in support of tax shelters the Internal Revenue Service subsequently deemed illegal. The criminal probe of the firm by the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney’s Office followed several civil suits by tax shelter investors whose claims the firm has agreed to settle for $85 million.

For more on this story see Law.com.

$1.58 Billion Judgment Against Morgan Stanley Reversed

In a 2-1 decision, a Florida state appellate court today reversed the $1.58 billion judgment against Morgan Stanley on the grounds that plaintiff failed to prove compensatory damages by not establishing the fraud-free value of the Sunbeam stock on the date of the merger. The court did not reach other issues on appeal, including whether the trial court improperly entered a partial default against Morgan Stanley as a sanction for discovery misconduct.

Morgan Stanley & Co., Inc. v. Coleman (Parent) Holdings, Inc., No. 4D05-2606 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. Mar. 21, 2007)

SENATE JUDICIARY HEARINGS: Half a Trillion Spent in Iraq With No Controls, Leahy Introduces Oversight Bill

The Vermont Senator Says We Are Otherwise On Track to Send a Full Trillion with No Oversight Adequate to Control Waste, Fraud and Abuse…

“We don’t have a law that would make war profiteering specifically a federal crime,” Sen. Leahy (D-VT) said in this morning’s efficient hearing conducted by the Senate Judiciary Committee, so he is introducing one. For more see this story.

Email and Digital Voice Message File Attachments: Watch What You Write and What You Say

For years, we have been saying, “watch what you say in email, as it may come back to haunt you.” Everyone knows this maxim but surprisingly few seem to heed that advice.

Email truly has become a clear and present danger to the corporation. Indeed, the higher up in an organization one goes, the more likely email will be used for the wrong reasons and potentially end up in the hands of someone who will happily read the messages — usually years later — out of context. Many executives (and even government officials) save email for no reason other than to cover their “assets,” should matters take a turn for the worse one day. I sat and watched a clever young barrister once cross examine a senior executive for two days on the silly things he said in his email box. That executive promised me that he would never use email again. Of course he used email again — we all do for the same reasons.

If you think email is risky and you take what you believe to be all the necessary precautions, consider the implications of digital voice technology. When you call someone and go “into voice mail,” did you know that in many organizations your message is saved in a .wav file and automatically forwarded to the person you tried to get on the phone via email? Unlike email, which lacks tone of voice and is easily read out of context or explained away, digital voice messages will have many of the attributes needed to understand exactly what the person meant when they said “we need to kill the competition.”

If you never heard of digital voice technology, or have heard of it but don’t know about all the risks, you are not alone. A recent survey suggests that organizations are mostly in the same boat and the ship has set sail.

Lexakos Founder Elected to the American Law Institute and Named to the Panel of Distinguished Neutrals of the CPR International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution

NEW YORK, NY — (MARKET WIRE) — 03/16/2007 — Lexakos founder Rick Wolf has been elected to the American Law Institute (ALI), effective February 14, 2007, joining a select group of practicing attorneys to receive this honor. The election to ALI is a prestigious recognition of Wolf’s contribution to the improvement of the law. He has been also invited to serve as a distinguished neutral for the CPR International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution.

The American Law Institute was founded in 1923. The Institute, through a careful and deliberative process, drafts and then publishes various restatements of the law, model codes, and other proposals for legal reform “to promote the clarification and simplification of the law and its better adaptation to social needs, to secure the better administration of justice, and to encourage and carry on scholarly and scientific legal work.” Its membership consists of judges, practicing lawyers, and legal scholars from all areas of the United States as well as some foreign countries, selected on the basis of professional achievement and demonstrated interest in the improvement of the law. The Institute’s restatements, model codes, and legal studies are used as references by the entire legal profession. Please visit www.ali.org for more information.

Wolf was recently invited to serve as a distinguished neutral on the franchise panel of the CPR International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution. CPR Institute is a membership-based nonprofit organization that promotes excellence and innovation in public and private dispute resolution, serving as a primary multinational resource for avoidance, management, and resolution of business-related disputes. The CPR Panels of Distinguished Neutrals are over 900 nationally and internationally prominent attorneys, former judges, academics and legally trained executives available to resolve business and public disputes. Please visit www.cpradr.org for more information.

Rick Wolf, former global head of compliance at Cendant Corporation, is founder of Lexakos LLC, a specialized business advisory firm focusing on corporate compliance and ethics programs, e-discovery and records management programs, and litigation management systems. His law practice, Wolf Associates LLC, concentrates on corporate governance, compliance risk assessments, alternative conflict resolution, and special discovery counseling for complex litigation.