Friday, October 1, 2010

NACDL's 6th Annual Defending the White Collar Case Seminar – “Groundhog Day: What's New in White Collar Sentencing?,” Friday, October 1, 2010

Guest Blogger: Alan Silber, Walder Hayden & Brogan, P.A. (Roseland, NJ)

Panelists: Amy Baron-Evans and David Debold

This exciting panel deconstructed the Guidelines for loss and the various enhancements.  Amy and David’s presentation focused on how white collar Guidelines are one-dimensional—focusing on loss as the most relevant indicator of the seriousness of the offense, while it should be harm and culpability.  Culpability includes mitigating factors such as role in the offense, mental illness and the like.

Amy and David spent considerable time discussing in great detail a specific advocacy approach.  It begins with educating the judge about the purpose of the sentence, which starts with 18 USC § 3553 (a) factors.  Defenders should explain why the sentence we seek is “sufficient but not greater than necessary” (SBNGN) to satisfy the sentence purposes expressed in that statute.  Defenders should also explain why probation, home detention or a split sentence is appropriate, then calculate the range, advocating for the lowest possible sentence.  This should be done before you calculate the Guidelines so that if necessary to attack a correct calculation, the attack can be tied to how the Guideline, as it has evolved, no longer effectuates the statutory purpose of the sentence.  Both Amy and David suggested that we turn the tables and use avoidance of unwarranted disparity to the advantage of our clients.

The panel turned to how to specifically calculate loss and then to a deconstruction of the fraud and loss Guidelines.  The panelists focused on how to ensure that the loss amounts were reasonably foreseeable to your client and how to look for possible credits in application notes to mitigate loss (i.e., asset sale in mortgage fraud).  Both panelists pointed out that there are lessons to be learned from security cases on causation.  Second Circuit cases have imported the civil standard of legal cause, which can eliminate some loss that is calculated if only a “but for” standard is used.  Legal cause removes from the loss calculation losses that can be attributed to intervening and/or unexpected (unforeseeable) events.

The panel then turned to the deconstruction of the Guideline range after it has been calculated, pointing out that Gall teaches that when a Guideline is not the product of empirical data and experience, it is not an abuse of discretion to ignore it.  Guidelines are not the product of old empirical data implemented to avoid disparity.  Since 1984, sentences have become significantly more severe.  Amy and David’s presentation provided numerous specific sources for statistical resources on this issue and on how amendments to the Guidelines have been driven by politics rather than data. Of note, readers should review the latest model sentencing memo available at

It is impossible to capture the amount of practical advice dispensed by these practitioners and the sheer volume of material that could be applied to your practice. The program and materials will be available for purchase through NACDL’s office.


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