Friday, December 2, 2011

In the News & Around the Blogosphere

Upcoming Conferences

ABA, Differences with Distinction, Understanding the Important Dissimilarities Between State and Federal RICO Statutes and their Impact in Litigation, Dec. 6, 1-2 P.M. - Download Differences with Distinction 12.6.11 (1)

ABA White Collar Conference, Miami Beach, Feb. 29 - March 2 here

NACDL White Collar Criminal Defense College at Stetson, Gulfport, Florida, March 15-20 here

(esp)

December 2, 2011 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

FCPA Bombshell: The Lindsey-Lee Order

"In this Court’s experience, almost all of the prosecutors in the Office of the United States Attorney for this district consistently display admirable professionalism, integrity and fairness.

So it is with deep regret that this Court is compelled to find that the Government team allowed a key FBI agent to testify untruthfully before the grand jury, inserted material falsehoods into affidavits submitted to magistrate judges in support of applications for search warrants and seizure warrants, improperly reviewed e-mail communications between one Defendant and her lawyer, recklessly failed to comply with its discovery obligations, posed questions to certain witnesses in violation of the Court’s rulings, engaged in questionable behavior during closing argument and even made misrepresentations to the Court."

"Consequently, the Court throws out the convictions of Defendants Lindsey Manufacturing Company, Keith E. Lindsey and Steve K. Lee and dismisses the First Superseding Indictment."

And here it is: Judge Matz's Order Throwing Out the Convictions of Lindsey Manufacturing Company, Keith E. Lindsey and Steve K. Lee.

(wisenberg)

December 1, 2011 in FCPA, Judicial Opinions, Obstruction, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Brady - Another case Under Scrutiny - Rigas

The Rigases (for background see here) have now filed a habeas claim and at the heart of the motion is a claimed Brady violation. It is argued that the government  failed to provide exculpatory evidence to the defense, and that it deceived the court in maintaining that the notes at issue did not include additional exculpatory material. The motion has impressive authors that include Lawrence Marshall from the Stanford Law School.

Motion - Download Rigas_ Habeas_ Memorandum of Law 10-4-11

(esp)

November 30, 2011 in Prosecutions | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Brady Again: Some Thoughts

Judge Emmet Sullivan's Order in relation to the Stevens case summarizing some of the findings of the special report by Hank Schuelke and William Shields was reported last week by my editor Ellen Podgor here and discussed in depth by my co-editor Solomon Wisenberg here.  I add some thoughts on Brady violations in general.

First, as Mr. Wisenberg points out, few Brady violations are intentional.  Although there are some rogue prosecutors who deliberately conceal what they know is information which would be beneficial to the defendant, the vast majority of Brady violators are well-meaning prosecutors who in their focus on their proof do not realize that certain information would be helpful to the defense.

Second, Brady is counterintuitive.  Requiring a participant in any contest to provide information to his adversary which will decrease his chance of winning goes against the grain.  Expecting a prosecutor who believes that such information is merely a means of enabling a guilty person to get off (since the material in question presumably has not changed the prosecutor's mind that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt) to provide it to his opponent is even more problematical.

Third, Brady violations are not uncommon, although few are revealed.  Since Brady violations are done in secret and the concealed evidence is unlikely ever to reach the light of day, most are undetectable.  As Judge Sullivan's Order notes, many of the Brady violations in the Stevens case would never have been revealed but for the exhaustive investigation by the court's appointed investigators.  And, this case, it should be remembered, involved a U.S. Senator represented by Brendan Sullivan, a superb, highly-respected and aggressive lawyer, and an outstanding law firm with considerable resources, not an overwhelmed court-appointed attorney with limited time and resources.

Fourth, as Mr. Wisenberg notes, prosecutors are rarely punished for Brady violations.  Most judges either ignore the violations or gently chide the prosecutors.  DOJ internal reviews of alleged prosecutorial misconduct are viewed by defense lawyers and many judges as whitewashes.  Disciplinary committees historically have treated errant prosecutors gently in the few cases of prosecutorial misconduct of which they become aware, and prosecutions of prosecutors for obstruction of justice and the like for withholding evidence are virtually nonexistent.

Fifth, the legal standards for Brady disclosure are confused.  Most prosecutors and judges think of Brady material as "exculpatory" material, that is, something that might have a significant impact on the determination of guilt, a standard that, to most prosecutors, eliminates all but a very few items of evidence.  In fact, what should be disclosed is evidence "favorable" to the accused, a much broader category than "exculpatory."  Additionally, many prosecutors believe that the standard used by reviewing courts to determine whether non-disclosure of Brady evidence requires reversal -- whether it is "material" -- is the proper standard to be used by a trial prosecutor in the initial disclose-or-not determination.  "Materiality" in this context is essentially a "harmless error" standard of review used to decide whether the withheld evidence mandates reversal, not the standard to determine whether to disclose in the first instance.  Just as a prosecutor's argument in summation may be improper, even if unlikely to result in reversal, concealment from the defense of favorable evidence is improper, even if not so serious that it later will be found "material" by an appellate court.

In sum, under current conditions, Brady just doesn't work.  More explicit guidelines, as recently published by DOJ, will help, as would standing court orders making a violation contemptuous (as has seemingly not happened in Stevens) and stronger punishments for violations by judges, prosecutorial agencies, and disciplinary committees (and perhaps also a statute criminalizing deliberate and knowing Brady violations).  But, in the end, the only real solution to Brady violations may just be, as Mr. Wisenberg suggests, open discovery in criminal cases.

(goldman)

November 30, 2011 in Contempt, Current Affairs, Investigations, Judicial Opinions, Legal Ethics, Obstruction, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Judge Matz Will Throw Out Lindsey-Lee FCPA Convictions Due To Government Misconduct

Maybe FCPA isn't such a slam dunk after all if you take the government to trial. Bloomberg's Businessweek has the story here. The announcement was made in open court yesterday. A written opinion is due today. The Court is apparently relying on its supervisory power, so we can expect a vigorous government appeal. The ruling covers Defendants Lindsey Manufacturing, Keith Lindsey, and Steve Lee.

(wisenberg)

November 30, 2011 in FCPA, Judicial Opinions, Obstruction, Prosecutions, Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Supreme Court Accepts Criminal Environmental Case - Does Apprendi Apply to Fines

The U.S. Supreme Court accepted cert in the case of Southern Union Co. v. United States. The question presented is "whether the Fifth and Sixth Amendment principles that this Court established in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and its progeny, apply to the imposition of criminal fines."

Southern Union was convicted under RCRA following a jury trial. The First Circuit Court of Appeals examined whether under Apprendi it was proper that a judge, and not a jury, "determined the facts as to the number of days of violation under a schedule of fines," and held that "Apprendi does not apply to the imposition of statutorily prescribed fines." 

With huge fines being levied in white collar cases, this issue is an important one not only in the environmental context, but also in other areas. In the Southern Unioncase, the "district court imposed a $6 million fine and a $12 million 'community service obligation.'" The government argued that Apprendi does not apply to criminal fines  citing to the Supreme Court's decision in Oregon v. Ice. But with white collar fines becoming exorbitant numbers, it raises an interesting issue that will likely be an important case to follow in the Court.

(esp)

November 29, 2011 in Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Speaking Truth To Power

Here is Judge Rakoff's Order Rejecting Proposed SEC-CITIGROUP GLOBAL MARKETS INC.Settlement. Here is the New York Times story. Judge Rakoff's Order repeatedly refers to Citigroup as a "recidivist." It is difficult to believe this Order would have ever seen the light of day had the Court truly believed that a comprehensive law enforcement effort was underway to investigate and hold accountable the persons and institutions whose actions "depressed our economy and debilitated our lives."

(wisenberg)

November 29, 2011 in Judicial Opinions, SEC, Securities | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Stevens Report

In anticipation of the Stevens Report, check out Amanda Coyle, Alaska Dispatch, Could botched Ted Stevens prosecution prompt federal legal system reform?

(esp)

November 29, 2011 in Prosecutors | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Morning Rant

WSJ's Joe Palazzolo reports here this morning on lobbying efforts to weaken/clarify the FCPA. In yesterday's NYTimes, Gretchen Morgenson commented upon the movement to prevent the CFTC from bringing transparency to the swaps market. In a November 4 piece, WSJ's Michael Rapoport detailed Jon Corzine's successful July 2011 campaign, on behalf of MF Global Holdings, to block a CFTC proposal "that would have placed tighter restrictions on how futures-trading firms can invest cash sitting in customer trading accounts." (Prescient move, Jon.) Most or all of the GOP candidates favor repeal of Dodd-Frank. If a Martian fell to Earth he/she/it would never believe that the same financial elites who brought us to the edge of ruin are still having so much success calling the regulatory shots.

FCPA clearly needs clarification. DOJ, in typical fashion, has given the statute the broadest possible interpretation. But don't expect any significant weakening. Why? FCPA is a cash cow. Big companies, most of whom are quite vulnerable, will do anything to avoid a civil or criminal trial. FCPA becomes a cost of doing business. The money flows into the government. Many of the DOJ attorneys flow into private practice. Because big companies do not want to risk losing at trial, bringing FCPA cases and obtaining huge monetary settlements, at least against those companies, is like shooting fish in a barrel. In other words, the cases are easy to do--just like insider trading cases. They bring big headlines. So the public is diverted from thinking about DOJ's remarkable failure to systematically investigate the top tier entitities and individuals who facilitated the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression.

(wisenberg)

November 28, 2011 in FCPA | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)