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News Briefs

Bar Association Rejects Loosening of Client Secrecy Rule


The governing body of the American Bar Association decisively rejected Tuesday a proposed change in its ethics code that would have allowed lawyers to circumvent longstanding client confidentiality rules in order to prevent fraud or other financial crimes.

The ABA’s House of Delegates, meeting in an annual convention here, voted 255 to 151 to strike down the provision in a proposed overhaul of the group’s code of professional conduct. It would have allowed a lawyer to break attorney-client confidentiality if he feared a client was about to commit a fraud -- one that would be furthered by the lawyer’s assistance.

Faced with another certain defeat, the leaders of a four-year effort to revise the ABA code then withdrew a related provision that would have allowed exceptions to the lawyer-client privilege to mitigate or rectify a financial injury arising from a client’s fraudulent acts.

The ABA ethics rules are not binding on lawyers, but they are used by state legislatures as models for enacting rules that do have binding legal authority.

E. Norman Veasey, chief justice of the Delaware Supreme Court and chairman of the ABA commission that drafted the 281 pages of proposed rule changes, called Tuesday’s vote “unfortunate” and a “setback.” He said the commission may resubmit the proposals at the ABA’s meeting in Philadelphia in February.

Government Statistics Show Strong Productivity Growth


Government figures released Tuesday provided potent ammunition for those who believe the U.S. economy has entered a new era in which technology and a more flexible labor market is making American companies more productive than before.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that productivity -- which measures output per hour worked -- grew at an unexpectedly strong 2.5 percent rate in the second quarter, compared with a revised 0.1 percent rate in the previous quarter.

In large part, the improved efficiency in the April-June period resulted from companies laying off workers and cutting work hours to bring their labor costs into line with sluggish demand for their goods. But firms were able to increase overall national production slightly even with reduced workforces -- and the higher productivity figure was contrary to the usual pattern for recessions and slowdowns, when productivity growth typically turns negative.

INS to Propose Higher Fees


Immigration officials are proposing to increase application fees by about 17 percent, or an average of $20, resulting in $127 million in additional revenue next federal fiscal year.

The proposal will be detailed in Wednesday’s Federal Register and is not expected to take effect until January. The last times the Immigration and Naturalization Service implemented fee increases was in October 1998 and January 1999.

“These fees are badly needed,” said William Yates, the INS deputy executive associate commissioner for immigrant services.

The fees are being raised 13 percent because of inflation and the remaining 4 percent to account for the technological investments that were not considered during the last set of increases, said Eyleen Schmidt, an INS spokeswoman.

The latest proposal is seeking increases that range from $10 to $55. In 1998, the agency proposed an astounding 161 percent increase, from $155 to $405, for an international adoption application.