Friday, February 17, 2017
John P. Anderson (Mississippi College School of Law) has a new Article titled, When Does Corporate Criminal Liability for Insider Trading Make Sense? published in 46 Stetson L. Rev. 147 (2016). The abstract reads -
Corporations are subject to broad criminal liability for the insider trading of their employees. Critics have noted that this results in a harsh irony. “After all,” Professor Jonathan Macey argues, “it is generally the employer who is harmed by the insider trading.” In the same vein, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Harvey L. Pitt and Karen L. Shapiro point out that, “[f]ar from being responsible for their employees’ violations of the law…most of the employers who have had the unfortunate experience of employing [insider traders] are in fact the only true victims, in an otherwise victimless crime.”
It is clear that not all insider trading is victimless, and not all employers of insider traders are innocent. But I am convinced that these critics are correct to point out that the current enforcement regime is absurdly overbroad in that it affords no principled guarantee to corporate victims of insider trading that they will not be indicted for the crimes perpetrated against them.
The law should be reformed to insure that corporations are only held criminally liable where they are guilty of some wrongdoing. Section I of this Article outlines current law in the United States concerning corporate criminal liability in general. Section II then looks at corporate liability for insider trading under the current regime. Section III explains why the current regime is absurdly overbroad and in dire need of reform. Section IV then points the way to some reforms that would render corporate criminal liability for insider trading more rational, efficient, and just.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
As many readers know, I am heavily involved in planning international white collar crime conferences with the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section. These have become wonderful learning and networking opportunities for those with an interest in the many issues in the field that transcend national boundaries.
I’m excited to announce the next international conference offering will occur on April 5, 2017 in Hong Kong. The event will focus on Global Investigations and Compliance: From Regulatory Trends to Leveraging Innovation and Technology. I expect this conference to be a wonderful compliment to the successful Global White Collar Crime Institute the American Bar Association held in Shanghai in 2015. If you attended the Shanghai event, I hope you will join us again and reconnect with the many colleagues and contacts you established at that earlier conference. If you were not in attendance in Shanghai, I hope you will join us in Hong Kong and be introduced to the growing network of international professionals making these American Bar Association white collar conferences an important part of their network.
Seating is limited for this event, and I hope you will register today to reserve your spot (click here to register). I look forward to seeing many of you in April.
Official ABA Event Description
PwC Hong Kong and the American Bar Association are hosting a full day seminar with four robust panel discussions followed by a networking reception. The panel sessions will focus on a number of pertinent topics, such as exploring regulatory updates, international investigations, navigating cross-jurisdictional issues in Southeast Asia, and the future of blockchain technology in compliance programs. The content for these panels will be delivered by leading experts, including prominent attorneys in the US and Asia, US regulators, consulting professionals, corporate executives, professors, and others. The target attendees for this event are international and Hong Kong/China based legal and corporate professionals focused on white collar crime and compliance.
- Regulatory Update: Recent Trends in Enforcement
- Current State of International Investigations
- Navigating Cross-Jurisdictional Issues in the South Asian Market
- Block-chain Technology: What does it mean for the Future of Compliance Programs?
More information here.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
There is something to be said about having career prosecutors, FBI, and other employees of the government immune from the political struggles surrounding them. They are tasked to focus on their jobs irrespective of the party in power. And clearly sometimes it is probably not easy.
For many years, Sally Yates was a career prosecutor. Climbing the ladder in DOJ took her out of the mainstream career prosecutor path and placed her front and center in the political arena.
I have not been a fan of the "Yates Memo," a memo that she authored that appeared to crackdown on corporate criminality, but rather in my opinion was a symbol of aggressive rhetoric that failed to offer a long-term solution to combatting corporate misconduct.
That said, her leadership role in being a "Minister of Justice" during her short tenure as the acting head of the DOJ needs to be applauded. She refused to defend a presidential order that has now been stayed by multiple judges. Bottom line - she was right and so far has been proven to be correct. For standing up for Justice she was fired on January 30, 2017.
And at the time of her dismissal, we hadn't learned of other investigations that might be of concern to President Trump's administration. It is only now that we are finding out that on January 26th the Justice Department relayed concerns about Michael Flynn to the President. (see discussion of WH Secretary Sean Spicer's Tuesday, press briefing (here).
So was Sally Yates more than just a woman who said NO to the President?
It is important to note here that there have been a long line of women who have spoken up to alert of misconduct (see here), as well as men. Maybe this is a time to recognize all the career folks in the different offices who put politics aside and just do their jobs.
Monday, February 13, 2017
At the end of the day, the new Attorney General is a DOJ guy--a veteran AUSA and U.S. Attorney. He appears to have real reverence for the history and traditions of Mother Justice, and I'm not just talking about withholding exculpatory information from the defense. Don't expect any sudden, shocking institutional changes in the day to day operations of DOJ's prosecutorial regime. Like any Attorney General in a new Administration--particularly a new Administration with a profoundly different ideological approach than its predecessor--there will be substantive shifts in priorities. Certain crimes will go to the head of the class. Ed Meese latched onto Zero Tolerance. Jeff Sessions will have his pet programs too. We have already seen some unfortunate saber rattling on violent crime and asset forfeiture. But things should settle down. President Trump has nominated Rod Rosenstein to be Deputy Attorney General. Rod is also a Department guy, who has served throughout DOJ for Democratic and Republican Attorneys General. Although Rod is a solid Republican, he has a longstanding reputation for non-partisanship. Rosenstein has been U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland for the last 12 years. You don't get appointed by President Bush, and kept around by President Obama for two terms in a state with two liberal Democratic Senators without being competent and non-partisan in your prosecutorial priorities. Unless you have pictures of somebody. But I digress. Bottom line, it is very difficult to envision anything like the Ted Stevens prosecution occurring in a Department with Sessions and Rosenstein in charge.
What about white collar? Both Sessions and Rosenstein believe strongly in individual accountability for criminal wrongdoing. They truly do. Expect to see a real focus, not just a bullshit press release focus, on going after high-end human white collar targets. If I am right, this will be one of the biggest turnarounds from the changeover in parties at DOJ. Not saying this is good or bad. It is what it is. Expect the overreaching that always comes with such efforts. I've commented for years about the strange phenomenon of GOP AGs being far more aggressive on white collar crime than their Democratic counterparts. Reno was an exception, but she was Clinton's accidental AG--a totally unexpected third choice. Web Hubbell was supposed to be the real power behind the throne. Not long before he was forced to resign, Hubbell called in First Assistants and Criminal Chiefs from U.S. Attorney Offices around the country and harangued them for being too tough on white collar crime. Why is this so--this odd GOP aggressiveness on white collar crime within DOJ? I expect it is embarrassment and the fear of bad press clippings. We are the big money party so we have to be seen as aggressively targeting white collar crime. This mindset, and a press uproar, seem to have spawned the massive resources thrown at S&L prosecutions in the late 80s and early 90s. At any rate, when the next financial scandal hits, let's at least hope DOJ doesn't overwhelmingly target lower middle class players who merely went along with the Zeitgeist. I can't tell you many people of color and immigrants, low level loan officers and the like, were aggressively prosecuted by Obama's DOJ while the true players went untouched. In this regard, for Sessions, there is nowhere to go but up.
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Bernard Lawrence Madoff carried out what many consider to be the largest financial fraud in U.S. history: a massive Ponzi scheme which cost his client’s $64 billion.
He’s in jail, serving out his 150-year sentence. Steve Fishman’s new Audible series “Ponzi Supernova” features never-before-heard recordings of Madoff as well as dozens of new interviews with FBI agents, attorneys, traders and victims of Madoff’s devastating Ponzi scheme. The fraud, Fishman says, extended far beyond Madoff and his close associates, and he finds fault in a system that actively enabled him to scam his many victims.
I would highly recommend giving the podcast a listen as an introduction to the six-part Audible series. Having heard a few excerpts of Madoff in his own words during the podcast, I can't wait to hear the full series.
Sunday, February 5, 2017
It is always difficult to predict how someone will opine if they are on the Supreme Court. This is especially true if the prior judicial opinions do not cover a wide span on issues. In the case of the nominee, Judge Gorsuch, we do have some opinions to examine.
It is clear that he has excellent credentials from schooling and prior service on the bench. Interestingly, however, is that Judge Gorsuch's ratings are below those held by Judge Merrick Garland, who never received a hearing on his nomination. (see here) And in many ways Judge Garland had superior experience as the Chief Judge for the District of Columbia. After all, his court saw many cases that involved issues of national concern, like national security, including those dealing with Guantanamo. Further Judge Garland is neither a far liberal nor a conservative, having offered to the bench a centrist that would be more appeasing to an already split nation. Everyone seems to agree that Judge Gorsuch presents a conservative approach. (see here and here)
But looking solely at Judge Gorsuch, and not the unfortunate circumstance of the failure of Judge Garland to have the hearing that Judge Gorsuch will now receive, where does Judge Gorsuch stand on white collar matters is the question.
Typically, those on the right tend to be pro-prosecution on Fourth Amendment and drug crimes. In contrast, the same position is not taken in a white collar case. Professor Kelly Strader in his article The Judicial Politics of White Collar Crime, documents this paradox. Judge Gorsuch has a strong record of supporting the prosecution. (See, e.g., United States v. Mendivil, 208 F. App'x 647 (10th Cir. 2006)(affirming drug related conspiracy). And some of these cases might be considered white collar cases (See, e.g., United States v. Carnagie, 426 F. App'x 640 (10th Cir. 2011)(affirming a sec. 1001 HUD related case).
But if one looks at cases beyond the Fourth Amendment, like a gun-related case - we see him emphasizing a strict statutory interpretation. (See United States v. Games-Perez (dissenting)). Justice Scalia was particularly strong in enforcing strict statutory interpretation in white collar cases (e.g., Skilling (concurring opinion), Sun-Diamond Growers, McCormick (concurring), Santos). Justice Scalia was not shy to use vagueness and the Rule of Lenity to accomplish having a white collar statute strictly construed. And in this regard there is a strong similarity seen with Judge Gorsuch. Judge Gorsuch's opinion in United States v. Renz, 777 F.3d 1105 (10th Cir. 2015) provides a glimpse of his statutory interpretation analysis. He includes in the decision a diagram as he takes apart the elements of the statute in a methodical manner. The opinion itself is well-organized, references precedent, and resorts to the Rule of Lenity when clarity is an issue. He was unwilling to accept the government's interpretation of this firearm statute.
So what can we expect if he joins the Supreme Court? It is somewhat uncertain when examining the white collar area. But it does appear that the government may have some problems if it tries to stretch statutes or if the statutes are not clear.
Saturday, February 4, 2017
An important issue to watch this year is the ongoing battle over access to data collected by companies and stored overseas. This issue heated up last year when Microsoft won its Second Circuit challenge of a 2013 warrant for emails housed in an Irish data center. In the Second Circuit decision from July 2016, the court determined that U.S. law did not allow the enforcement of warrants for customer email content housed overseas, even though Microsoft is a U.S. service provider.
Last week, the Second Circuit denied rehearing the Ireland case by a divided 4-4 vote. The decision contains a number of interesting arguments from the judges and is worth a read for those involved in cases with international data issues.
The Second Circuit decision now sets the case up for a possible Supreme Court challenge by the government. According to Orin Kerr, writing in the Washington Post, however, Senator Sessions indicated during his confirmation hearings that he might seek a legislative remedy to address the Microsoft issue. Either way, this topic is one to keep an eye on in 2017.