White-Collar Crime

Raven 23 was a team of Blackwater employees who provided security in Iraq for U.S. government personnel. On September 16, 2007, a car bomb went off, and Raven 23 was called on to secure an evacuation of a diplomat. As a federal court described it later, “a shooting incident erupted, during which [some of the members of Raven 23] allegedly shot and killed fourteen [Iraqi civilians] and wounded twenty others.”

After September 16, the firefight moved to federal district court in the District of Columbia when the U.S. Attorneys Office for the District of Columbia brought charges against some of the members of Raven 23.

And, as legal battles go, what a firefight it is.

There’s been a Kastigar hearing, a direct appeal, a mandamus action, a judicial call for an Inspector General investigation into the State Department’s conduct in the case, a promised request for the government to pay attorneys’ fees for one of the members of Raven 23, posturing about new charges, and threats of motions for vindictive prosecution.

If you find yourself with some time, reading the papers in the case – the case number is 08-360 on D.D.C.’s docket – isn’t a bad way to spend it.

If you find yourself without that kind of time, here’s a blow by blow of some of the most interesting bits.

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For a guy who hasn’t done much in the last few weeks but go to Vegas, Chris Christie’s past and future has gotten a lot of attention this week.

Ryan Lizza has a long piece in the New Yorker about Christie that is not terribly dissimilar in conclusion than Joe Patrice’s prior Christie observations on these pages. Lizza’s piece starts with a description of a roast of Lat’s former boss, where, among other zingers,

a New Jersey judge turned comedian, noted, “It really is an honor to be standing next to what could be the next President of the—.” He shuffled some papers on the lectern. “I’m sorry, these are the wrong notes. I’m doing a roast next week with Jeb Bush.”

Ouch.

More damning, though, and more relevant to this column, is Jeff Smith’s piece over at Politico – “Chris Christie is Toast.” (incidentally, Joy Behar makes the same bread-based observation about Christie in Lizza’s piece).

Jeff Smith is an interesting guy to write that article. The former Wunderkind of Missouri Democratic politics was brought down by a federal investigation into campaign finance problems that ultimately landed him in a federal prison.

So, why might one think that Christie is toast?

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Zachary Warren

Recently, Lat suggested that it wouldn’t have been worth it for Zachary Warren to hire a lawyer early in the Dewey investigation. As Lat frames the question, “How much could a lawyer have helped?”

Now that we know a little more about the case — especially the identities of the Secret Seven — let’s think about whether Warren could have benefited from hiring counsel early. And, more generally, what benefit anyone gets who is in a white-collar investigation from hiring a lawyer early.

We know that Warren was concerned about money (as most folks are). The reasonable question is what Warren would get with the money he’d spend on a lawyer.

Of course, there are no certainties — hiring a lawyer in a white-collar case, like in most litigation matters, is a little like buying a lottery ticket. How much does your spend on counsel change the odds in your favor?

So, what are the odds that a good lawyer could have made a difference?

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Dewey know the identities of the “Secret Seven,” the seven former employees of Dewey & LeBoeuf who have pleaded guilty and agreed to help Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance make his case against the four remaining defendants? As of today, we do.

Yesterday we wrote about the recently unsealed plea agreement of Francis Canellas, the failed firm’s former finance director. Today we bring word of the other six cooperators and the deals they’ve reached with the government….

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Earlier this week, we mentioned that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance was interested in unsealing the criminal case filed against Dewey & LeBouef’s former executives. Such a move would have the potential to reveal the identities of the “secret seven” — the finance folks who turned to the authorities after things at the failed firm went sour.

Today, documents in the case are slowly being unsealed, and we’ve got info on those who squealed to law enforcement. Get your fill of schadenfreude here…

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For a while, interest in the Dewey drama seemed to be flagging (at least according to our traffic statistics). But lately it has revived, thanks to the recent criminal charges against the firm’s former leaders, plus the arrival on the scene of Zachary Warren — a total Dewey & LaBoeuf-Cake.

Interest in Zach Warren has been keen — and not just because of his good looks. His tale seems to resonate with Above the Law readers because, as Matt Kaiser recently noted, “he seems like one of us.” Although Above the Law’s readership is expanding, with more than a million unique visitors a month, it’s still fair to say that a young lawyer, recently graduated from a top law school, is within ATL’s demographic sweet spot.

Over the past few days, we’ve learned more about Zachary Warren. Dewey want to share this knowledge with you? Of course we do….

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The indictment of Zachary Warren is troubling for a lot of lawyers because, well, he seems like one of us. His post-Dewey path to a great law school, two cool clerkships, and an offer from a great law firm, is something we, as lawyers, can identify with.

What’s most frustrating about Zachary Warren’s situation is that it looks like he was charged largely because he decided to talk to law enforcement without hiring a lawyer first.

Most of us would like to think that, as lawyers, we’re smart enough to make the right legal moves if we’re in a place where we need to. Yet Warren talked to law enforcement, when most of us know that’s the wrong move (and, if you don’t know that’s the wrong move, there’s a short video on my firm’s webpage explaining how we look at it). What’s up with that?

As Lat mentioned earlier this week, there’s a dispute about what happened. Some of Warren’s friends say he was essentially duped about his status or the nature of the interview he participated in. The Manhattan D.A. has pushed back, through spokeswoman Erin Duggan Kramer: “The facts [in this New York Times piece] are incorrect. The claim that an attorney with a federal clerkship could have any misunderstanding of what it means to speak with and agree to meet with the D.A.’s office is preposterous.”

Kramer’s point makes seems intuitively compelling. Why would a smart lawyer talk?

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Over the years, we’ve covered many Biglaw employees who have been accused or convicted of insider trading. This should come as no surprise, given the confidential and market-moving information that regularly flows through the hallways and computers of leading law firms.

The latest accusations of insider trading involve a lawyer who worked at a white-shoe law firm. This individual stands accused of taking confidential information he was privy to by virtue of his work and passing it along through a middleman to a broker, who then allegedly traded on it. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the scheme generated over $5.6 million in illegal profits, with over $168,000 going to the Biglaw tipster.

At which elite law firm did this defendant work, and from which school did he receive his law degree?

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Dewey & LeBoeuf: back in the headlines.

Last week brought some good news for Georgetown University Law Center. In the latest U.S. News law school rankings, GULC moved up one spot to tie at #13 with Cornell. Go Hoyas!

Alas, over the past year the news has been less happy for some individual GULC students and graduates. About a year ago, former student Marc Gersen got sentenced to four years for meth dealing. Earlier this year, alumnus Stephen Glass got rejected for California bar admission, due to his notorious past as a dishonest journalist.

In recent weeks, a very accomplished (and handsome) GULC graduate, currently clerking for a federal appeals court judge, got indicted in connection with the collapse of Dewey & LeBoeuf. What Dewey know about Zachary Warren?

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There are so many interesting parts of the Dewey criminal charges, it’s hard to count them all.

For starters, there are the emails laid out by the SEC in its complaint, such as:

  • “I don’t see how we’ll get past the auditors another year.”
  • “I assume you [k]new this but just in case. Can you find another clueless auditor for next year?”
  • “I don’t know anything about [the contracts] and I don’t want to cook the books anymore. We need to stop doing that.”
  • “I don’t know. He’s starting to wig a little. Maybe he’s hearing and seeing too much . . . .”

Sadly for people and happily for prosecutors, regrettable emails are simply a fact of modern electronic life. Still, “I don’t want to cook the books anymore” has to be pretty high on the list of things that one is likely to regret putting in an email.

(These emails, and more, are collected in the Bloomberg piece by Matt Levine wonderfully titled “Law Firm Accountants Were Bad at Accounting, Law.”)

But, probably more interesting than these regrettable emails is what the Dewey prosecution can tell us about white-collar prosecutions in New York more generally….

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