News that New Jersey's top federal prosecutor steered a multi-million-dollar contract to former Attorney General John Ashcroft's private firm to oversee a medical supply company's compliance program appears to have made an impression at Main Justice and in Congress.
The New York Times today followed up on recent New Jersey news accounts that Ashcroft and others have handsomely benefitted by referrals from U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie in several criminal investigations.
The contract, potentially worth up to $52 million, will be paid to the Ashcroft Group by Zimmer Holdings and Indiana medical implant maker and stems from a settlement between Zimmer and Christie's office on criminal charges of kickbacks to doctors.
While no wrongdoing is suspected in the contracting with Ashcroft, the Times reports aides to Attorney General Michael Mukasey have been "concerned about the appearance of favoritism" and the Criminal Division launched its own internal review to come up with guidelines.
The use of private monitors in out-of-court settlements with companies accused of wrongdoing was also the subject of a November meeting between Criminal Division officials and general counsel for corporations and defense attorneys.
The monitor contracts between outside lawyers and the targeted companies call for compliance control monitoring, financial audits and other types of internal investigations.
Mark Corallo, an Ashcroft spokesman, told the Times that Ashcroft did not lobby for the referral from Christie but Ashcroft was well-prepared for such an endeavor because of his credentials as an efficient manager.
Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman, told Legal Times the ongoing review was not prompted by Ashcroft's contract but may lead to changes in policies and standards regarding the selection of monitors.
"Due to the increased use of independent monitors in deferred prosecution agreements, and in order to obtain comprehensive input about the use of monitors, the Criminal Division and others within the department solicited views from both within the Department as well as from experts outside the department," Carr said.
Meanwhile, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) of the Senate Judiciary Committee released a letter he wrote to Mukasey requesting records on the "no-bid contracts" in preparation for an oversight hearing later this month.
"I appreciate your prompt attention to this matter so that we can work together to ensure that political considerations do not play a role in the Department’s responsibility to enforce the law," Leahy wrote.