U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell wants U.S. Attorneys to play no part in the selection of federal monitors for deferred prosecution agreements.
In the latest salvo over U.S. Attorney Chris Christie’s hiring of former Attorney General John Ashcroft for a lucrative monitoring position, Pascrell sent a letter and statement of principles to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey outlining changes he’d like to see made to the practice of deferred prosecution agreements.
At issue is Christie’s hiring of Ashcroft, his former boss, for a position overseeing Zimmer Holdings, a company that makes medical implants. The contract, which was agreed to by the company in lieu of prosecution, could pay Ashcroft a maximum of $52 million.
Pascrell’s press release said that an examination of this type of appointment shows a “clear pattern of unchecked control granted to federal monitors.” The press release added that Ashroft appears to have “used a political connection to win the contact.”
Although Pascrell said that he does not believe that deferred prosecution agreements should be abolished, the process of selecting monitors needs to be more transparent. He noted that the hiring of Ashcroft only came to light after Zimmer Holdings reported it on a Securities and Exchange Commission report.
“Clearly, these agreements serve a necessary purpose of keeping intact large corporations while making them abide by stringent reforms,” wrote Pascrell in the letter. “However, federal prosecutors have also maintained a cloak of secrecy regarding deferred prosecution agreements and I hope you will agree that the carriage of justice requires that it be shone to the light of public scrutiny.”
Pascrell’s statement of principles is broken down into four main provisions: taking away the U.S. Attorney’s power to appoint monitors and replacing it with a national database of monitors and structured fee agreements; requiring guidelines for the appointment of federal monitors; adding judicial scrutiny to the appointment process; and full disclosure of all deferred prosecution agreements.
“It is my hope that you will choose to work with Members of Congress as we seek to reform the practice of deferred prosecution agreements instead of maintaining the state of concealment that has existed around these agreements,” wrote Pascrell.
Pascrell is the second New Jersey congressman to write to the Attorney General regarding the controversy over Christie’s hiring of Ashcroft. Two weeks ago, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone wrote to Mukasey expressing alarm at potential abuse of deferred prosecution agreements.
U.S. Attorney spokesman Michael Drewniak declined to comment.