Larry Dean Thompson (born November 15, 1945) is an American lawyer, most notable for his service as deputy Attorney General of the United States under United States President George W. Bush until August 2003. While Deputy Attorney General he signed a memo in 2002 denying deportation of Canadian citizen Maher Arar to Canada ultimately leading to his deportation to Syria where he faced torture. He also oversaw prosecutions against officials at Enron.
Thompson is the son of a railroad laborer from Hannibal, Missouri. He received his bachelor's degree, cum laude, from Culver-Stockton College in 1967, his master's degree from Michigan State University in 1969, and his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Michigan in 1974.
In 1970, Thompson married Brenda Anne Taggart. They have two sons.
Thompson worked as an industrial relations representative for Ford Motor Company during law school. After graduation he worked at an attorney for Monsanto Company in St. Louis until 1977. That year he joined the law firm of King & Spalding in Atlanta, Georgia. He left the firm in 1982 for four years as U.S. attorney for the northern District of Georgia; however, he returned and was made a partner in 1986. He left King & Spalding in 2001 to return to the Justice Department as Deputy Attorney General.
Thompson was a director of the Providian Financial Corporation, during the time when Providian paid over $400 million to settle charges of consumer and securities fraud. Thompson made $4.7 million in the sale of Providian stock prior to the allegations. In 2002, Judicial Watch filed suit against Thompson for allegedly artificially inflating the stock price in order to illegally increase his earnings in the sale of stock. Thompson has denied any wrongdoing.
From 1982 to 1986, he served as U.S. attorney for the northern District of Georgia, and led the Southeastern Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. The New York Times describes him as "a moderate" who is "respected by both Democrats and Republicans."
Thompson served as Independent Counsel for the Department of Housing and Urban Development Investigation from 1995 to 1998, completing the investigation and prosecution started by Judge Arlin M. Adams in 1990.
In 2001, Thompson was appointed as Deputy U.S. Attorney General by President Bush.
Thompson was responsible for signing a deportation memo that sent Canadian citizen Maher Arar to Syria where he was tortured. Thompson signed that memo despite an immigration panel's decision that Arar would be tortured there, a clear breach of international laws prohibiting torture. The Canadian government has since apologized for its conduct in the matter and paid millions to Arar. Arar's attempts to get justice in the U.S. have been opposed on 'state secrets' grounds by both the Bush and Obama administrations, and was recently dismissed on those grounds by the 2nd Circuit Appeals Court.
In January 2003 Thompson issued an internal Justice Department document informally titled the Thompson Memorandum written to help federal prosecutors decide whether to charge a corporation, rather than or in addition to individuals within the corporation, with criminal offenses. The guidelines were considered tough because they require that to claim cooperation, companies must (1) turn over materials from internal investigations, (2) waive attorney-client privilege, and (3) not provide targeted executive with company-paid lawyers. The guidelines were criticized for, among other things, "seriously eroding" attorney-client privilege. These guidelines were "eased" in December 2006 by Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty who issued a revised version of the memorandum.
In August 2003 Thompson left the Justice Department and was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution for a year before accepting the position of senior vice-president for government affairs and general counsel at Pepsico in Purchase, New York. Since 2011, he has served as the John A. Sibley Professor in Corporate and Business Law at the University of Georgia School of Law, where he teaches corporate responsibility and white collar criminal law, and serves on the Dean Rusk International Law Center Council. Thompson has also taught at Georgia State University College of Law.
Thompson was named in the press as a leading candidate for Attorney General after John Ashcroft resigned on November 9, 2004. Thompson, if selected, would have been the first African-American ever to head the Justice Department. Instead, Alberto Gonzales was selected as Ashcroft's replacement. Later, Thompson's name was mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. With the resignation of Gonzales in August 2007, Thompson's name again surfaced a candidate for Attorney General. He supported former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the 2008 presidential election, and the American Bar Association mentioned Thompson again as a possible Attorney General or Supreme Court justice during a potential John McCain administration.
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