Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 White Collar Crime Awards

2008 White Collar Crime Awards

Each year this blog has honored individuals and organizations for their work in the white collar crime arena by bestowing "The Collar" on those who deserve praise, scorn, acknowledgment, blessing, curse, or whatever else might be appropriate. I welcome comments from readers who would like to suggest additional categories or winners (or losers?).

With the appropriate fanfare, and without further ado,

The Collars for 2008:

The Collar for Best Supporting Actor - to the attorneys who represented actor Wesley Snipes, who was found not guilty of fraud and conspiracy and guilty of three misdemeanors

The Collar for Worst Stretching Exercise - to the prosecutors who charged Ben Kuehne with money laundering based upon his writing an opinion letter, a charge that was dismissed by the court

The Collar for Keeping the Biggest House of Cards Standing for the Longest Period of Time - Bernie Madoff is the leading contender

The Collar for Knowing When to Quit - to former plaintiffs tobacco litigation lawyer Dickie Scruggs who plead guilty to a single count

The Collar for the Best Autopsy on a Case - to former county coroner Cyril Wecht for his extensive post-trial arguments calling for no re-trial

The Collar for the Best Flip-Flop by a Former Prosecutor - to former Enron Task Force prosecutor Andrew Weissman, who argued for limits to corporate criminal liability in an amicus in the Second Circuit Ionia case

The Collar for the Most Efficient Decision - to Judge Posner, who wrote the opinion affirming Conrad Black's decision twenty days following oral argument

The Collar for the Most Bang for the Buck - Jack Abramoff, who in 2006, won The Collar for the Best Cooperating Witness, and in 2007 The Collar for the Best Skating Not on an Ice Rink (along with Andy Fastow)

The Collar for the Most Often Indicted Political Position - there is a recount on this one with Ted Stevens arguing that he can't be counted in the Senate category until after sentencing, Rod Blagojevich claiming that he should be able to be included in both the Senate and Governor category, and a text message received from former Detroit Mayor Kwane Kilpatrick asked whether we were including Puerto Rico's Governor in the count

The Collar for the Best Timing - a tie between DOJ for issuing new guidelines pertaining to principles of business prosecutions on the same day it lost the Stein case and Siemens for entering into a FCPA agreement prior to a change in administration

The Collar for the Best Parent - retired last year and renamed the Bill Olis Best Parent Award - unawarded this year since no one comes even close to Bill Olis

The Collar for Needing to Be Told "No" Twice - to the prosecutors who appealed Judge Lewis Kaplan's decision in the Stein case



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The names of the "Best Supporting Actors" who conducted the Snipes trial are Robert G. Bernhoft and Robert A. Barnes of The Bernhoft Firm, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, assisted by Daniel R. Meachum of Atlanta and Linda Moreno of Tampa.

Posted by: Peter G | Dec 30, 2008 8:46:08 PM

None of the existing categories seems to fit, but the jury in a recent mortgage fraud case in KC deserves recognition for seeing through the RICO ruse prosecutors used. Those familiar with jury instructions for federal conspiracy charges will understand.

The defendant, a Democratic candidate for mayor of KC, faced conspiracy charges after straw buyers working for a scam artist tried to buy her house. Her house was one of more than hundred homes the scammer purchased in the KC area, but she was the only homeowner in that group to be prosecuted.

Testimony failed to establish any contact or communication between the defendant or any of her alleged co-conspirators. All she knew before closing day was that the buyer had agreed to her asking price. There was no indication she was aware a "management fee" had been tacked on to the deal by the scammer until the doc review at closing.

As I listened to the jury instructions I recall whispering to a fellow courtroom observer that RICO conspiracy charges must work like the crane technique in The Karate Kid...no can defend against it.

Five days later the jury broke from deliberations to ask the judge a question: "Is it POSSIBLE to acquit on a conspiracy charge?"

The judge (a corporate lawyer for AT&T for six years before Bush I appointed him) grudgingly said yes and scolded the jury for taking so long to reach a decision.

Two days later the jury acquited the defendant on all charges.

Posted by: John Kerr | Jan 1, 2009 2:54:56 PM

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