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Is “The Government Made Me Do It” A Valid Legal Defense?

Publication Date: 
April 23, 2009
The Wall Street Journal Law Blog
Amir Efrati

Professor Joseph A. Grundfest is quoted in The Wall Street Journal Law Blog in a piece about lawsuits brought by Bank of America shareholders in the wake of sthe company's merger with Merrill Lynch. The Law Blog discusses the disclosure that government officials told Bank of America Chairman and CEO Ken Lewis not to publicize his reservations regarding Merrill Lynch's financial status when the merger took place and whether Lewis can use this fact as a defense for himself in a lawsuit:

Joseph Grundfest of Stanford Law says it’s too soon to say whether the disclosures weaken Lewis’s position in the lawsuit. More facts need to emerge, including whether Lewis consulted his lawyers in not disclosing his doubts about Merrill and “what did the lawyers tell him?” he says. “If Lewis’s state of mind was to obey directions from the Secretary of the Treasury and head of the Federal Reserve, who have the power to put his bank out of business and cause mass losses to his shareholders…it’s entirely credible to see how Mr. Lewis could craft a defense.”