Wednesday, September 6, 2006
San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada have avoided being sent to jail for civil contempt, at least for a little while. The two reporters were subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury investigating the leak of the testimony of major league baseball players, most prominently San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, who testified in 2003 during the Balco (Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative) steroids investigation. The reporters quoted extensively from Bonds' testimony in which he denied knowingly using steroids provided by his personal trainer, Greg Anderson. The current investigation includes possible perjury by Bonds and the potential violation of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e) related to the improper disclosure of grand jury materials. While a federal district court judge ordered the two reporters to testify or be subject to civil contempt sanctions (see earlier post here), they worked out an agreement with prosecutors that they do not have to go to jail while they appeal the district court's order to the Ninth Circuit. They are in a better position than Anderson, Bonds' former trainer, who is in jail for a second time because he refused to answer questions before the grand jury about his knowledge of Bonds' use of steroids. Given the recent spate of cases enforcing subpoenas to reporters, it seems unlikely that Williams and Fainaru-Wada will avoid jail if they carry through with their assertion that they will not testify. The grand jury has over 15 more months in its term, so they could face a substantial period of incarceration for civil contempt. An AP story (here) discusses the agreement with federal prosecutors. (ph)
Monday, August 28, 2006
Greg Anderson, former personal trainer for San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, is back in jail for another stint after being held in civil contempt for refusing to answer questions about steroid use by Bonds and other athletes. Anderson served a little over two weeks in jail in July for refusing to testify before the earlier grand jury investigating Bonds for possible perjury and tax evasion, and was released only because the grand jury's term expired. Anderson was subpoenaed immediately upon the empanelment of a new grand jury, and while his most recent appearance included answers to a few questions, such as his name, he refused to respond about whether he ever injected Bonds with steroids and whether he knows New York Yankee outfielder Gary Sheffield. Bonds and Sheffield testified in 2003 about steroids produced by Balco (Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative), where Anderson obtained designer steroids. Bonds has denied ever using steroids, an issue in the current grand jury perjury investigation. With the new panel's term lasting at least sixteen more months, Anderson looks to settle in for the long haul, unless he unlocks the jail cell by answering questions or if prosecutors have sufficient evidence to indict Bonds, which probably would obviate the need for his testimony. Even in the latter situation, Anderson is unlikely to testify if called to a trial, so there's a chance he could even go to jail a third time for civil contempt. An AP story (here) discusses the latest civil contempt. (ph)
Thursday, August 24, 2006
On top of the investigation in San Francisco into the leak of secret grand jury testimony leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle comes word that U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis has ordered the Department of Justice to investigate whether confidential information was leaked to the press about the impending indictment of two lobbyists subsequently accused of disseminating national security information to Israel. A Washington Post story (here) states that Judge Ellis, who sits in the Eastern District of Virginia, directed prosecutors to determine who may have disclosed information to CBS News in 2004, which reported that Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman would be indicted for violating the Espionage Act before the indictment was returned. The ruling comes in connection with a motion to dismiss by the defendants, who argued that the pre-indictment publicity prejudiced the jury pool; Judge Ellis refused to dismiss the charges but did order the investigation.
The Post story seems to indicate that the investigation is directed at the media, but it looks to me like the basis for it is the grand jury secrecy requirement of Rule 6(e), a violation of which is punishable by a criminal contempt. Although the media cannot generally be charged for publishing information leaked to it, at least outside the national security context, there is a good possibility that reporters will be subpoenaed to testify about the source of their information, perhaps leading (once again) to the incarceration of members of the media for civil contempt for refusing to comply with a grand jury subpoena. Our nation's capital has seen quite a bit of that lately, too, during the investigation of the disclosure of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent. (ph)
Friday, August 18, 2006
The grand jury investigations involving Balco (Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative) and possible perjury by Barry Bonds may end up sending witnesses to jail for civil contempt for their refusal to testify in response to subpoenas. Bonds' former personal trainer, Greg Anderson, went to jail in July for refusing to testify, and was released when the grand jury's term expired. With a new panel in place for at least 18 months, he now runs the risk of spending a lot of time in jail. In an appearance before the grand jury, Anderson apparently responded to a few questions, but refused to answer a key one: "Did you distribute anabolic steroids to Barry Bonds?" The San Francisco Giants slugger denied knowingly using them in grand jury testimony in 2003. Prosecutors have asked that Anderson be held in contempt again, and a hearing is scheduled for August 28 to decide whether he should be held on contempt for refusing to answer. If he is ordered to respond to the question and refuses again, he may sit in jail for up to the 17 months remaining in the grand jury's term, assuming it's not extend by six months. An AP story (here) discusses the latest twist in the Bonds perjury investigation.
How do we know what Bonds said before the grand jury? That brings us to two more potential witnesses who have asserted they will not testify about who leaked Bonds' testimony to them despite being ordered by a federal judge, who refused to quash subpoenas to San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. Prosecutors are investigating the leak of grand jury material that is supposed to remain confidential. The reporters, whose First Amendment privilege claim has been rejected by courts in a variety of situations, have stated that they will not disclose the confidential source of the grand jury testimony. As discussed in an earlier post (here), the person who leaked the testimony of Bonds and other major league baseball players could face a criminal contempt and other charges for disclosing the transcripts. Within a few weeks, there could be three people in jail for refusing to testify before the grand jury, and no one has even been indicted yet. (ph)
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Liquidmetal Technologies, Inc., disclosed that it had received a grand jury subpoena for documents related to the company's accounting. A press release (here) states: "The documents being sought include accounting records, documents relating to the Company’s relationship with Growell Metal of Korea, and documents and records relating to transactions in Company stock by officers and directors. The Company has been advised that the materials sought are pertinent to a grand jury investigation recently initiated in the Middle District of Florida by the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Fraud Section concerning alleged accounting improprieties by the Company, among other things." While the press release is vague -- naturally -- it may be that the overseas transactions involve possible Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations, particularly when the Fraud Section conducts the investigation. The issues related to transactions in company stock could indicate possible insider trading questions, but again it's not clear where the government is going. (ph)
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Two reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, have been ordered to testify before a federal grand jury about the leak of the grand jury testimony of major league baseball players who testified in 2003 about receiving steroids from Balco (Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative). Among those whose testimony reached the reporters is San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, who stated to the grand jury that he did not knowingly use steroids provided by his personal trainer who also worked at Balco. Bonds is now the target of a separate grand jury investigation into possible perjury, and the Department of Justice has also been investigating the leak for well over a year. Fainaru-Wada and Williams published the book Game of Shadows that asserted Bonds used steroids for a number of years, which apparently triggered baseball's investigation of steroid use and may have stimulated the perjury investigation.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White issued an opinion (In re Grand Jury Subpoenas to Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams available below) rejecting the reporters' assertion of a journalist privilege to maintain the confidentiality of sources, and found that the grand jury subpoenas were not "unreasonable or oppressive" under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 17(c). The decision to enforce the subpoenas is consistent with the decisions reached in the Special Counsel's investigation of the leak of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent in which former New York Times reporter Judith Miller spent almost three months in jail on a civil contempt before I. Lewis Libby released her from the promise of confidentiality. See In re Grand Jury Subpoena, Judith Miller, 438 F.3d 1141 (D.C. Cir. 2006). Among those filing affidavits in support of the two reporters were former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent and well-known journalist and author Carl Bernstein.
The reporters are unlikely to testify before the grand jury and could end up in jail for civil contempt, a fate that has already befallen Bonds' former personal trainer, Greg Anderson, who refused to testify in the perjury investigation. While Judith Miller's source released her from the confidentiality agreement, that is probably less likely to occur here because of the substantial legal risks that person (or persons) faces. The leak of grand jury material is punishable as a criminal contempt under Rule 6(e)(7). Moreover, during the government's investigation, it appears that all parties to the Balco case with access to the leaked grand jury testimony have stated they did not disclose it, so revealing the source of the information could well open that person up to additional charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making a false statement (Sec. 1001). The two reporters may be in jail for quite a while if the case is being investigated by the new grand jury empaneled in July in the Bonds perjury investigation because the civil contempt lasts for the panel's term, which could be until January 2008 (assuming it's not extended another six months). (ph)
Wednesday, August 2, 2006
According to the Tampa Tribune here, US Senate candidate in Florida, Katherine Harris received a subpoena. We previously reported about Katherine Harris here. What appears to be the issue is that she failed to tell her campaign manager of receiving this federal subpoena. The article states that Harris has stated that she is not a "target."
There are three categories often used to describe individuals who receive subpoenas. They can be targets, subjects, or witnesses. Obviously, target is the least favorable category for the accused. Being a subject can also be problematic as it means that the government has not yet made up their mind on whether to indict you. Being witness is used to describe the person who be providing information that will assist the government in proceeding against others.
Tuesday, August 1, 2006
The Wall Street Jrl reports here that Sanofi-Avenits has received a DOJ grand jury subpoena. It appears to relate to "a proposed settlement of a patent lawsuit involving Plavix, a blood thinner." The drug is co-marketed with Bristol-Myers. CNN Money reports here on happenings at Bristol-Myers.
Bristol-Myers Squibb entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the government last year. (see here). The agreement called for the company "to endow a chair at Seton Hall University Law School dedicated to the teaching of business ethics and corporate governance, which position shall include conducting at least one seminar on business ethics and corporate governance annually that members of BMS' executive and management staff may attend, as well as other corporate executives."
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Greg Anderson, the former personal trainer for San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, will be called back to testify before the new grand jury being scheduled to be empaneled on July 27 to take up the perjury investigation where the prior panel left off. The earlier grand jury's term expired on July 20, at which time Anderson was released from his civil contempt for refusing to testify about possible steroid use by Bonds. With a fresh panel in place, Anderson could be held for up to eighteen months if he refuses to testify again, as he has asserted he plans to do. While he is likely to land back in jail, the issue will be whether the civil contempt has any possibility of driving him to testify. If it appears that he will simply continue to refuse to answer questions, at some point the court will have to let him go, although federal district judges have fairly broad discretion in determining when the coercive effect of the civil contempt has become fruitless. An AP story (here) discusses the next step in Anderson's merry-go-round life with the grand jury and the local federal lockup. (ph)
In the usual case in which a grand jury issues a subpoena for documents, the recipient determines what is responsive and, if necessary, asserts any attorney-client privilege and work product protection claim by refusing to turn over the records. At that point, the ball is in the government's court to either challenge the claimed privilege or protection, or to assert the crime-fraud exception to undermine the claim. A recent decision by the Sixth Circuit in In re Grand Jury Subpoenas 04-124-03 and 04-124-5 (here) essentially follows that model when a third party held the documents and was willing to turn them over to the government despite a privilege claim by the target of the investigation.
The investigation concerns Venture Holdings and possible looting of the company by its former owner, Larry Winget, before it went into bankruptcy. As a result of the bankruptcy, new ownership took control of Venture (called "New Venture" in the opinion), and when a grand jury investigation began regarding questionable transactions at Venture, New Venture received a subpoena for documents that it was more than happy to comply with, including waiving any corporate attorney-client privilege. At this point, Winget stepped in and claimed that records held by New Venture included documents covered by his personal attorney-client privilege. The district court accepted the government's suggestion that a "taint team" made up of a prosecutor and investigator with no connection to the case -- behind the so-called "Chinese Wall" -- review the documents and determine which ones were subject to a privilege claim. Under the government's proposal, if the taint team determined that a document was not privileged, it would go straight to the personnel assigned to the grand jury investigation without a chance for Winget to challenge that decision, at least not until after disclosure of the document.
It was this step in the process that cause the Sixth Circuit to reject the taint team and instead permit the privilege claimant to make the initial determination on the privileged nature of the documents, as if the subpoena were served directly rather than on a cooperative the third party. The court expressed some hesitation about the fairness of the proposed government review, stating:
It is reasonable to presume that the government’s taint team might have a more restrictive view of privilege than appellants’ attorneys. But under the taint team procedure, appellants’ attorneys would have an opportunity to assert privilege only over those documents which the taint team has identified as being clearly or possibly privileged. As such, we do not see any check in the proposed taint team review procedure against the possibility that the government’s team might make some false negative conclusions, finding validly privileged documents to be otherwise; that is to say, we can find no check against Type II errors in the government’s proposed procedure. On the other hand, under the appellants’ proposal, which incidentally seems to follow a fairly conventional privilege review procedure employed by law firms in response to discovery requests, the government would still enjoy the opportunity to challenge any documents that appellants’ attorneys misidentify (via the commission of Type I errors) as privileged. We thus find that, under these circumstances, the possible damage to the appellants’ interest in protecting privilege exceeds the possible damage to the government’s interest in grand jury secrecy and exigency in this case. Therefore, we reverse the district court, and hold that the use of a government taint team is inappropriate in the present circumstances. Instead, we hold that the appellants themselves must be given an opportunity to conduct their own privilege review; of course, we can presently make no ruling with respect to the merits of any claimed privilege that may arise therefrom.
Government taint teams have been used primarily in law office search cases in which documents seized are within the government's control, and there has been quite a bit of controversy about them because the same incentives identified by the Sixth Circuit are present. While In re Grand Jury Subpoenas is a subpoena case, so the court is merely putting the privilege claimant in the same position he would have been in if the he received the subpoena directly, the court's rationale regarding taint teams could be applied to challenges to searches involving privileged documents. (ph)
Friday, July 21, 2006
[Note: The following is a corrected post in light of updated media reports] The investigation of San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds will shift to a new grand jury so that prosecutors can continue to determine whether to indict him on perjury and tax evasion charges. The grand jury panel that had been hearing evidence against Bonds related to his 2003 grand jury testimony as part of the investigation of steroids distribution by Balco (Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative) expired on July 20 at the end of its 18-month term of service. By empaneling a new grand jury, prosecutors will not have to race any deadlines in deciding whether to seek charges. I suspect prosecutors decided to hold off for now rather than risk running afoul of the adage "act in haste, repent in leisure." Bonds is unlikely to even consider a plea offer, and the statute of limitations is not a concern, so it is better to wait until the case is clear -- one way or the other -- than to rush something through a grand jury on its last day and then have to clear up the mess later. That is especially the case with tax counts, which require approval from the Tax Division in Washington, D.C.
The downside to shifting to a new grand jury is that evidence heard by the prior panel must be presented again to the new set of grand juros, which includes reading transcripts to them, a process that can be deadly dull. A new grand jury allows prosecutors to subpoena Bonds' former personal trainer, Greg Anderson, to appear once again. In June, Anderson refused to testify and the district court ordered him to jail on July 6 for civil contempt, but he only served the two weeks until the prior grand jury's term expired. His time on the outside may be fairly short, however, depending on when prosecutors subpoena him to testify, which most likely will trigger another refusal to testify and another trip to jail.
While Bonds has dodged an indictment at this time, and probably for the next few months, the U.S. Attorney's Office stated that its investigation has not ended. Pulling out a well-worn aphorism, an AP story (here) quotes Michael Rains, an attorney for Bonds, as saying, ""They don't even have enough to indict a ham sandwich, much less Barry Bonds." I'm not sure what a ham sandwich could do that would trigger federal charges, but it's probably not perjury or tax evasion. (ph)
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
A Wall Street Journal article (here and Law Blog entry here with access to the article) discusses the response of major law firms to the current spate of SEC and grand jury investigations of companies related to the timing of their options awards. Not surprisingly, the firms have viewed this as a marketing opportunity, informing current and potential clients that the best strategy is, of course, to consult with competent counsel. For example, national law firm Latham & Watkins is touting its "Options Timing Working Group" that comes complete with a page on the firm's website (here) and offers missives written by Jim Barrall in The Executive Comp Insider that tout, again not surprisingly, the need to obtain legal counsel. The burgeoning investigations have already touched over fifty companies, and that's just the ones publicly disclosing pending investigations. The number of companies conducting their own internal reviews is much higher than that, and we will see more disclosures of problems in the coming months. With all the lawyers getting involved in these cases, the interesting question will be whether firms are conflicted out of certain representations, either because they were involved in the drafting of the stock option agreements or their conduct of an internal investigation means they cannot defend individual officers or directors in subsequent cases. As Peter Lattman notes in the WSJ article, this is another instances of lawyer full employment -- not that there's anything wrong with that. (ph)
Saturday, July 15, 2006
The personal attorney for San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, Laura Enos, expects her client will be indicted in the next week on perjury and tax evasion charges. An AP story (here) quotes Enos as stating, "We are very prepared . . . We have excellent tax records and we are very comfortable that he has not shortchanged the government at all." The federal grand jury in San Francisco investigating Bonds is set to expire in the near future, perhaps as early as Thursday, July 20, so any indictment must be returned by then barring a six-month extension of its term. Bonds' former personal trainer, Greg Anderson, remains in jail for civil contempt for refusing to testify before the grand jury, and the Ninth Circuit denied his motion for bail while he appeals the contempt or, more likely, waits for the clock to wind down -- a witness is released from civil contempt once the grand jury's term expires. A lot of people will be watching for signs of an indictment on July 20, when the Giants will be home playing the division-leading San Diego Padres. (ph)
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Media reports (see here) indicate that federal prosecutors may seek a grand jury indictment of San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, probably this month, on perjury and tax evasion charges. The perjury relates to his testimony before a grand jury in 2003 regarding his use of steroids received from Balco (Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative) in which he is reported to have denied knowing that two substances provided by his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, contained steroids. Anderson, Balco founder Victor Conte, and two others entered guilty pleas in 2005 to drug charges related to the creation and distribution of so-called designer steroids -- which had nicknames like "the clear" and "the cream" -- that were undetectable until the recent development of new drug tests.
A U.S. District Court judge recently sent Anderson to jail for civil contempt because he refused to testify before the grand jury investigating Bonds. He has filed a motion with the Ninth Circuit for bail while he appeals the contempt citation, but the grand jury is ending soon, perhaps at the end of the month, and it's unlikely he will be released before it expires or Bonds is indicted (see AP story here). From earlier reports about the appearance of witnesses, it appears that this is a "Thursday Grand Jury" that meets once each week, so any indictment is likely to come on that day.
The perjury case against Bonds looks to be based on the testimony of a former business partner involved in selling memorabilia autographed by Bonds and a former girlfriend who claims, among other things, that Bonds gave her $80,000 in cash. The tax charges likely relate to memorabilia sales that may not have been reported as income. If there is an indictment, I suspect any tax count is part of a "Liar, Liar" approach in which the government will try to show that Bonds was deceptive in other areas of his life to bolster the theory that he was not truthful in the grand jury about his use of steroids. The amount of income involved is unlikely to be significant for someone with Bonds' salary and ability to generate additional income through appearances and autograph sessions, so any tax charge looks to me to be part of a broader strategy to call into question his truthfulness. Moreover, if there is a basis for tax evasion charges, that would make it more difficult for Bonds to take the witness stand to explain his earlier testimony. If that is the case, the defense will focus on trying to undermine the credibility of the government's witnesses.
Mark you calendars for Thursdays during July, because something more than hot pennant races may be of interest. (ph -- sorry for the headline, I couldn't resist)
Thursday, July 6, 2006
Greg Anderson, the former personal trainer for San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, will be spending at least a few weeks in jail for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury in San Francisco investigating whether Bonds committed perjury in the Balco (Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative) steroids investigation. Anderson first refused to testify a week earlier because he believed that his plea agreement did not require him to do so and the government was acting improperly. U.S. District Judge William Alsup held Anderson in civil contempt and ordered him sent to jail, rejecting a request by Anderson's attorney, Mark Geragos, for bail while he appeals the contempt.
An AP story (here) notes that the grand jury is set to expire in a few weeks, and a civil contempt only lasts as long as the grand jury is authorized, which is usually eighteen months. Geragos noted -- or perhaps boasted -- that there were things in refrigerators with a longer shelf-life than the grand jury investigating Bonds. That may be, although under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(g) a grand jury "may serve more than 18 months only if the court, having determined that an extension is in the public interest, extends the grand jury's service. An extension may be granted for no more than 6 months, except as otherwise provided by statute." Therefore, if the particular grand jury hearing evidence of possible perjury by Bonds has not been extended once, the court could push its service out another six months and Anderson could be held during the extended term. Similarly, there is nothing that would prevent prosecutors from transferring the case to a new grand jury once the current one's term expires and resubpoenaing Anderson to testify, leading perhaps to another civil contempt, although if the judge believes jailing him is futile then Anderson would have to be released.
Given the grand jury's short remaining term, assuming no extension or transfer, then we are likely to learn in the next few weeks whether Bonds will be indicted on perjury charges, and perhaps other violations identified during the investigation. Just in time for the dog days of August when the pennant races tighten considerably. (ph)
Tuesday, July 4, 2006
For those of you keeping score over the long holiday weekend, add two more Silicon Valley companies to the list of those who have received grand jury subpoenas from the Northern District of California in the ever-widening stock options-timing probe. Maxim Integrated Products, Inc. -- not to be confused with the magazine -- and Zoran Corp. disclosed (here and here) that they were served with the grand jury subpoenas and, as usual, will cooperate in the criminal investigation, in addition to providing documents to the SEC in its informal investigation of the issuance of the stock options. On top of Apple's recent disclosure of possible problems in the grant of options in the 1990s to its executive, including Steve Jobs, these latest subpoenas show that the investigation is still in its growth phase. Given the near-addiction high tech firms have for stock options, look for more announcements of the receipt of grand jury subpoenas and pledges of cooperation. (ph)
Friday, June 30, 2006
Greg Anderson, the former personal trainer for San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, refused to testify before a federal grand jury in San Francisco investigating whether Bonds committed perjury in 2003 when he testified about his lack of knowledge in taking steroids. Anderson was connected to Victor Conte's drug lab, Balco (Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative), and provided Bonds with a then-undetectable steroid called "the clear." Bonds testified during the Balco investigation that he did not know the substance Anderson gave him contained steroids. Anderson plead guilty to drug charges and served a three-month prison term, and prosecutors subpoenaed him to testify about Bonds' steroid use.
Anderson did not assert the Fifth Amendment, which may not have been available because of his guilty plea or, in the alternative, prosecutors may have been willing to grant him immunity. Instead, the basis for his refusal was that prosecutors wanted to examine him about a tape-recording in which he discusses Bonds using the clear in 2003 to avoid major league baseball's drug-testing program. Anderson's attorney, Mark Geragos (from the Scott Peterson murder case), argued that the tape was made illegally, but an AP story (here) notes that a federal district court judge decided that the government was not involved in the taping so prosecutors could use it to examine Anderson. By refusing to testify, Anderson faces a civil contempt proceeding and may be sent to jail if he continues to refuse to testify, at least for the term of the grand jury. If the court holds him in contempt, he could then appeal to the Ninth Circuit, although it is hard to see how he can avoid testifying about other matters unless her asserts the Fifth Amendment.
While Anderson is unlikely to be a particularly strong witness in any prosecution of Bonds, the tape recording could be important contemporaneous evidence used to link him to knowing steroid use near the time of his grand jury testimony. It certainly appears that, as the pennant races heat up, so is the investigation of Bonds. (ph)
As if the investigation of Barry Bonds for perjury wasn't keeping the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco busy enough, two more grand jury subpoenas have been issued by the Office to companies as part of the ever-widening options-timing investigation. Intuit Inc. and Equinix, Inc., both headquartered in the district, disclosed that they have received grand jury subpoenas dated June 26, 2006, and continuing a pattern seen in numerous other such disclosures, they promise to cooperate in the investigation. Intuit's press release (here) actually goes a small step further by pointing out that a number of other companies have also been subpoenaed, similar to the playground tactic of blending into the crowd when the principal suddenly appears to investigate the broken window:
On June 26, 2006, Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq: INTU) received a subpoena from the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California requesting documents related to the company’s historical stock option practices. It is our belief that similar subpoenas have been served on many of the companies named in a recent report from the Center for Financial Research and Analysis (CFRA). As disclosed on June 9, 2006, Intuit received an informal request from the Securities and Exchange Commission for information on historical stock option practices. We will fully cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Equinix takes the straightforward approach, stating in its 8-K (here) that "it received a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California and that it intends to cooperate fully with the U.S. Attorney's Office in connection with this subpoena. The subpoena requests documents relating to Equinix's stock option grants and practices."
The issuance of subpoenas has become almost routine now, and the interesting question is if any cases will move beyond the investigatory stage and result in plea agreements that might lead to additional prosecutions. (ph)
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York may now be in the lead in issuing grand jury subpoenas to companies for documents related to the timing of stock options granted to senior executive. RSA Security Inc. issued a press release (here) on June 13 stating that the company "announced that it has received a document subpoena from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York requesting records from 1996 to the present relating to the Company’s granting of stock options. The Company plans to cooperate fully with the office of the United States Attorney in connection with this subpoena." On June 12, Monster Worldwide Inc., parent company of Monster.Com, issued a press release (here) that "the company has been served with a subpoena from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York relating to stock option grants. Monster Worldwide intends to cooperate fully in this matter." Strikingly similar language, but then there is no way for counsel to spin the receipt of a grand jury subpoena other than to promise cooperation, something companies are virtually required to do these days if they hope to avoid indictment should the investigation come to that point.
A Wall Street Journal scorecard (here) tracking the various government and internal investigations of stock option timing now lists twenty companies that have received grand jury subpoenas, from U.S. Attorney's Offices in New York, Brooklyn, San Francisco, and Boston. The question is whether anything will come of these various inquiries -- aside from the tidal wave of attorney's fees, of course. A key step to watch for is a plea agreement and SEC settlement with a corporate officer involved in backdating documents, which will indicate the types of violations prosecutors and the SEC are looking at in the cases. (ph)
Monday, June 12, 2006
An AP story (here) reports that San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds is willing to speak with former Senator George Mitchell in his investigation of steroid use in baseball, conditioned on one very big "if." The if is that Bonds must be assured the information will not be given to the Department of Justice for use in the grand jury investigation of whether Bonds committed perjury in 2003 when he testified about steroids supplied by Balco (Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative). The grand jury has already heard from a number of witnesses, and the recent search of the home of former major league player Jason Grimsley has also been linked to the Bonds investigation.
Can Bonds get the assurances his attorney says he needs, or is this all a smokescreen to make it appear that Bonds is willing to cooperate but that his hands are tied because of those mean federal investigators? The parties could agree to a type of civil protective order, although whether that would be enforceable in the absence of a judicial officer's endorsement is an open question. More importantly, under Ninth Circuit precedent (the case is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California), In re Grand Jury Subpoena Served on Meserve, Mumper & Hughes, 62 F.3d 1222 (9th Cir. 1995), grand jury subpoenas trump such protective orders even when issued by a federal judge in civil litigation. Any agreement between Bonds and Mitchell would have no effect on the grand jury's power to obtain the evidence, which would not be subject to any privilege claim or the like.
Would the Department of Justice join such an agreement not to used Bonds' statements to Mitchell's investigators? That sounds like a type of quasi-immunity, something prosecutors are unlikely to grant without first hearing from Bonds or his attorney about the content of his statements -- that whole "buying a pig in a poke" problem. It is not clear what upside, if any, prosecutors would see in agreeing not to use any statements Bonds might make about steroid use. If he simply reiterates his grand jury testimony, there is nothing gained. If he were to contradict that testimony and be indicted for perjury, not only could the statements not be used, but Bonds could argue for a type of "use fruits" protection on the ground that disclosure of his statements would be an impermissible use that has tainted the government's investigation. One of the scariest phrases to federal prosecutors is "Kastigar hearing," which is a hearing to determine whether the government has used immunized testimony in any way in a subsequent prosecution. That was the ground on which Oliver North's convictions were overturned, and the mere mention of a Kastigar hearing sends chills down the spine of prosecutors because it means they have to show an independent basis for all their evidence, a difficult standard to meet. Any hint of immunity for Bonds, even informal immunity, creates this possibility, and the San Francisco U.S. Attorney's Office is unlikely to see the Mitchell investigation as worth creating that kind of risk to a perjury prosecution.
Bonds' attorney surely is aware of all these considerations, and how unlikely it is that the government will grant such protection to statements by Bonds. I suspect that spin has already begun, with Bonds trying to show how "cooperative" he is and that federal prosecutors are unwilling to hear his side of the story. The grand jury investigation promises to get warmer as the summer moves on and the pennant races heat up. (ph)