May 8, 2009
W.R. Grace - Not Guilty
See Grace Case, A Joint Project of the School of Law & the School of Journalism, W.R. Grace not guilty on all counts (and hats off to all the students and professors involved in the wonderful blog coverage of this trial).
Note above website seems to be down. See also WSJ Blog here
May 6, 2009
Lawyer Memos as a Basis for Criminal Charges
The media is certainly focusing on the "Torture Memos," as they should. See here, here, and here. But one aspect hasn't really been discussed and that is whether there should be reconsideration of another case that involved a lawyer's opinion letter. If the torture memos are not a basis for a criminal prosecution, then can one really proceed against Ben Kuehne for his opinion letters? See here
Lawyers as Gatekeepers - SEC Goes Against Two Attorneys for Their Opinion Letters
The Securities Exchange Commission filed a civil complaint against "two California-based attorneys as well as a California corporation and its owner for preparing and issuing fraudulent legal opinions involving unregistered stock that enabled promoters and others to sell shares in an illegal pump-and-dump scheme." The SEC Press Release states:
"The market relies on lawyers to act as gatekeepers who exercise their function in good faith," said Katherine S. Addleman, Regional Director of the SEC's Atlanta Regional Office. "As alleged in our complaint, these defendants disregarded the investing public by operating a legal opinion mill of fraudulent letters that misrepresented critical facts and cited to non-existent documents."
See also Joe Palazzolo, SEC Charges Lawyers in Pump-and-Dump Scheme
May 4, 2009
In the News & Around the Blogosphere
Mark Baker, TBO.com (AP), John Edwards acknowledges federal probe
Chris DaAngelo, The Western News, Prosecution drops its case against Walsh ("The government dismissed all charges against Robert C. Walsh Monday afternoon in the W.R. Grace & Co. federal trial in Missoula"); Laura Lundquist & Will Grant, Grace Case, A Joint Project of the School of Law & the School of Journalism, Week 10: Two defendants walk, defense promises short case as they take the field
Josh Gerstein, Politico, Stevens judge wants evidence rules changed
Jeff Jeffrey, BLT Blog, Morrison & Foerster Picks Up Top DOJ Official
Chronicle of Higher Education, Grand Jury Indicts Florida Lawmaker and College President
DOJ Press Release, Five Charged in $70 Million “Dream Home” Mortgage Fraud Scheme
Michelle Singletary, Washington Post, How Madoff Became an Equal Opportunity Thief
(esp)(blogging from New Orleans)
May 3, 2009
Financial Fraud is a DOJ Priority
In assessing the first 100 days of the Obama Administration, AG Holder discussed policy initiatives. One of these was "Targeting Financial Fraud." The press release states that "[a]nticipating a renewed focus on financial crimes, the President’s FY 2010 budget provides resources for additional FBI agents to investigate mortgage fraud and white collar crime, and for additional Federal prosecutors, civil litigators and bankruptcy attorneys to protect investors, the market, and the Federal Government’s investment of resources."
In discussing what DOJ is doing now, the release states:
"the Department has devoted significant attention to preventing, investigating, and prosecuting mortgage fraud. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently investigating more than 2,100 mortgage fraud cases, up almost 400 percent from five years ago. The Bureau also has more than doubled the number of agents investigating mortgage scams, has created a National Mortgage Fraud Team at headquarters in Washington, and is working hand-in-hand with our partners at other agencies. The Department also has brought indictments and obtained convictions against perpetrators of rescue schemes in the past months. In one case, the Department recently indicted 24 individuals for alleged activity related to an extensive mortgage fraud scheme based in San Diego, which involved 220 properties with a total sales price of more than $100 million dollars."
In looking at future reforms, the release states that "[t]he Department of Justice is committed to an open, transparent, and accountable government. Attorney General Holder has repeatedly stressed that our nation has a 'fundamental commitment to open government' and the 'American people have the right to information about their government’s activities.' These values are central to our revitalization of the basic traditions of the Department, and are key features of the reform that the Obama Administration has brought to the Department of Justice in the past 100 days."