The arrest of New York state senate majority leader Sheldon Silver
points to an ongoing institutional problem that is not limited to
New York state: the law firm as the perfect place to launder money.
The reason for this is that lawyer-client
confidentiality, at least as it is often practiced, allows a law firm, and the public office holders who are part of or do work for it, to keep its
clients, its services, its receipts, and its payments secret.
, dated January 21, Silver has been accused of using
his position to give himself millions of dollars in kickbacks and
bribes, most of which went through two law firms with which he is
affiliated. What were called "attorney referral fees" came from
clients with substantial business before the state and, according to
the complaint, "not as a result of legitimate outside income Silver
earned as a private lawyer." Even legitimate and semi-legitimate
outside income earned from those seeking special benefits from the
government can be problematic.