Thursday, March 3, 2016
This year marked the 30th Anniversary of the ABA White Collar Crime Conference. Hon. Paul Friedman gave a wonderful talk in which he looked at three decades in white collar practice. He noted how initially there was “no focus on white collar crime.” In 1970 a fraud unit was created, and it was the first time anyone decided to focus on this area of law. Initially the main charges one saw were mail and wire fraud. But then came RICO, FCPA and others. He noted that in practice, firms did not have major white collar crime sections. Now they do, with initiatives in export controls, forfeiture, health care, and other areas. He also noted the rise of deferred prosecution agreements.
Judge Friedman focused in his talk on four things: 1) increased power of federal prosecutors – especially with regard to sentencing – which he noted was higher in white collar cases today than it used to be; 2) vanishing jury trials – with more pleas and a smaller number of cases going to trial – which in turn results in fewer lawyers with trial experience; 3) electronic discovery- and the need to confront the new technology; 4) Brady – and the need to eliminate a requirement of having a materiality element, with all potentially favorable information being disclosed. He suggested that judges need to play a more active role in discovery. Finally, he emphasized the growing imbalance of power from the judicial branch to the executive branch.