WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior U.S. JusticeDepartment official warned Tuesday that a recent SupremeCourt ruling is making it harder for prosecutors to pursuecorruption cases against public and corporate officials.
The high court earlier this year ruled that the U.S."honest services" law only applied to officials who receivedkickbacks or bribes and no longer included undisclosed dealingsthat enriched a person without revealing he or she has apersonal stake in the decision.
That threw into question the convictions of two former topexecutives, former Enron Chief Executive Jeffrey Skilling andmedia baron Conrad Black. The Supreme Court sent both casesback to the lower courts for further review.
"In order to restore our ability to prosecute the fullrange of public corruption and fraud cases, we believe thatlegislation to remedy the effects of Skilling is needed," LannyBreuer, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department'scriminal division," told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He said the legislation should make it clear that thegovernment would have to prove that the individual knowinglyconcealed information and had a specific intent to defraud thepublic and that the new law could rely on wire and mail fraudstatutes as a basis for prosecution.
Breuer said that citizens should know that public officialsare representing the public's interest "rather than forpersonal gain" and that investors and shareholders are entitledto know that executives are acting in their best interests "andnot attempting to secretly benefit themselves."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, aVermont Democrat, said the senators were trying to craftlegislation quickly and that so-called self-dealing by publicofficials and corporate executives was unacceptable.
However, time is short because lawmakers are expected todepart later this week for their home districts to campaign forre-election. They will be back after the Nov. 2 elections butit was not clear if they could pass this legislation then.
"We are trying and will try to get a bipartisan piece oflegislation out of here," Leahy said. (Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Eric Walsh)