The Crisis in Professional Liability

Article excerpt

Accountants, lawyers, the financial press, educators, and other members of the business community gathered in June 1992 to listen to a distinguished panel and commiserate with one another over the proliferation of lawsuits against lawyers and accountants. The event was a Manhattan Institute Policy Forum on "The Crisis in Professional Liability." The panel was made up of three attorneys, the author of Litigation Explosion, and a professor of economics.

Top billing went to panelist John Howard, Counsel to Vice President Dan Quayle. "This is a crisis in our liability system as a whole. Unfortunately, lawyers and accountants are being welcomed into the bunker," Howard said.

He disputed suggestions by other panelists that lawyers and accountants were victims of scapegoat legislation by federal regulators trying to shift the blame for the S&L crisis. "Don't focus on the government...The government may be a concern, but it's not the only one," Howard said.

Howard added that the real threat to auditors, lawyers, other businesses, and the economy in general, was excessive private litigation. He acknowledged that government prosecutors sometimes bring suits they think will attract the most attention from the news media. He said one objective of government litigation is to let potential wrongdoers know they are subject to prosecution. …