Magazine article Insight on the News

Supreme Court Gets Task-Force Lawsuit

Magazine article Insight on the News

Supreme Court Gets Task-Force Lawsuit

Article excerpt

Byline: Jamie Dettmer, INSIGHT

Supreme Court Gets Task-Force Lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court is to decide whether the Bush administration should supply documents sought by advocacy groups in a lawsuit claiming Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force was influenced by corporations. The court agreed to hear the government's argument that forcing it to divulge information on who was involved in task-force meetings in 2001 to provide advice to the president would violate the Constitution's separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches of government.

A $31 billion energy bill based on the task force's recommendations passed the House but stalled in November in the Senate when the GOP miscalculated by two the number of votes it needed for passage. The bill may be reintroduced next year.

A lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch claims executives such as former Enron Corp. chairman Kenneth Lay were allowed to influence government policy at the meetings.

Under federal law, deliberations of executive-branch advisory committees can be kept private if the committee is made up of full-time federal officials. But Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club say corporate executives were for all practical purposes members of the committee. Requiring disclosure of the task-force documents would "intrude on the president's vital interests in receiving unregulated and uninhibited advice from his closest advisers," U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson says in court papers.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ordered the government to disclose the records so he could assess the merits of the lawsuit. A federal appeals court in April refused to block the document disclosure.

Settlement Reached In Banking Dispute

A long-running banking dispute between Paris and Washington has been settled. The French and U.S. governments reached a $745 million deal in December concerning alleged fraud in the 1991 takeover of U.S. insurer Executive Life by French bank Credit Lyonnais. U.S. prosecutors earlier this year launched a criminal probe to find out whether the French bank used illegal front companies in the takeover. At risk for Credit Lyonnais was its U.S. banking license.

Two-thirds of the settlement is to come from the French government. Credit Lyonnais will pay $100 million.

At the time of the deal, U.S. regulations barred a single foreign investor from acquiring more than 25 percent of a U.S. insurer. The scandal involved much of the French financial establishment. Credit Lyonnais was state-owned at the time and enjoyed close relations with government officials. …

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