White-Collar Crime

Elite law firms and the Mafia would appear to be worlds apart. Biglaw firms represent all sorts of unsavory characters, but these clients tend to steal using computers rather than cudgels. When you wear white shoes, you don’t want to get them splattered with blood.

But there are commonalities. Both Biglaw and Big Crime are large and lucrative enterprises. They’re intensely hierarchical and often ruthless.

There are cultural similarities as well. As noted in these pages by lawyer turned therapist Will Meyerhofer, “Some big law firms are like the mob. They do ugly things, but prefer to avoid ‘ugliness.’” Instead, there’s a lot of indirection and passive-aggressiveness.

So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that a leading defense lawyer to Mob figures has joined “the family” — the Biglaw family, that is….

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Peter Madoff (via Getty Images)

You can call notorious Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff many things, but thankfully you can’t call him a lawyer. Although he has gotten to know the law quite well over the years, thanks to his journey through the legal system, Bernie Madoff has no formal legal training law degree.

[UPDATE (6:40 p.m.): As noted in the comments, Madoff briefly attended Brooklyn Law School.]

But Bernie Madoff’s brother, Peter Madoff, is an attorney. Peter graduated from Fordham Law School in 1970 and is a member in good standing of the New York bar, next scheduled to register in October 2014.

Query why Peter Madoff hasn’t been disbarred. In June 2012, he pleaded guilty to numerous federal charges related to his service as “chief compliance officer” of Madoff Securities. In December 2012, he received a sentence of ten years in prison.

Now that Peter Madoff’s in the Big House — FCI Estill, according to the handy BOP Inmate Locator — let’s have a look at the big house he leaves behind. The federal government is trying to sell it for a sizable sum, almost $4.5 million….

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* A patent infringement suit filed over the “hairy visor.” The best idea for combatting hair loss since SNL’s Chia Head. [Lowering the Bar]

* The Hong Kong legal community is split over the continued donning of wigs. It’s nice how China allows them to think they have a choice on such matters. [Wall Street Journal]

* Crooks are decoding remote signals for keyless entry to cars and police are encouraging drivers to manually lock and unlock their cars. Screw that. I’m an American and a small risk of losing a car is not worth spending an extra 3 seconds unlocking a door like a schnook. [Legal Juice]

* Former U.S. Judge Paul G. Cassell called for a U.S. House of Representatives panel to ask the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn to explain why it “appears” to be engaging in “on-going violations of important federal crime victims’ statutes.” Jeez. You let a few tens of millions in white collar crime go unpunished and suddenly everyone’s jumping down your throat. [WiseLawNY]

* A sexual harassment suit can go forward against a supervisor who exposed himself to a subordinate. In his defense, she DID make the accusation that he “didn’t have any balls,” so she very technically asked for it. [Adjunct Law Prof Blog]

* Fordham Law professor Thane Rosenbaum has a new book entitled Payback: The Case for Revenge (affiliate link). I thought they already wrote that book and called it “Game of Thrones.” [Thane Rosenbaum]

* Our very own People’s Therapist on TV! He’s chatting about the new poll identifying Associate Attorney as the unhappiest job in America. Check it out after the jump… [HuffPost Live]

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* The National Labor Relations Board, now with fewer recess appointments! Partners from Arent Fox and Morgan Lewis were nominated to fill seats necessary for the board’s quorum. [National Law Journal]

* Shearman & Sterling seems to be bucking the Biglaw system. The firm is cutting pay for high earners and increasing it for lower-ranking attorneys. We’ll probably have more on this later today. [Reuters]

* Dentons (formerly known as SNR Denton) recently poached a six-partner team led by Stephen Hill from Husch Blackwell to bolster its white collar practice. Welkom too teh furm, guise! [Am Law Daily]

* “It is technically more legal to screw a walrus than to get gay married.” You know you live in a very sad place when not only do article headlines like this exist, but they’re also CORRECT. [Death and Taxes]

* An American Eagle pilot is facing attempted drunk flying charges. Yes, that’s a thing, but come on now, anyone who’s seen the movie Flight knows you can fly a plane while you’re wasted. [Bloomberg]

* Lindsay Lohan blew off a deposition in Los Angeles yesterday. Cut the girl some slack; she had to appear on the Late Show with David Letterman, which was way more important. [Contra Costa Times]

We had the good fortune to have Patrick Fitzgerald — the former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois who recently joined Skadden — speak to my company’s global compliance conference last month.

Let me prove that I’ve learned a little about this blogging business over the years: Before the jump, I’ll give you my personal thought or two about introducing prominent speakers. I’ll hold the good stuff — what Fitzgerald, the famous guy, said — until after the jump. (Watch this, Lat! They’ll be drawn through the jump like vultures to carrion!)

How do you introduce a prominent speaker? You can do it the usual way: He went to school, got a job, and did some fancy stuff, zzzzzzzz.

Or you can find something offbeat about the person. I chose to introduce Fitzgerald by saying that I was afraid that our speaker had peaked too young. He had been named one of the sexiest men alive by People magazine in 2005; how do you ever surpass that? And, also in 2005, he had received an award from Washingtonian magazine for “best performance without a script.” For most people, it’s all downhill from there.

Fortunately, our speaker managed to surpass his early achievements. And then I trotted through what must be the usual litany in a Fitzgerald introduction: Led the prosecutions of former Illinois Governors George Ryan (sentenced to five years) and Rod Blagojevich (14 years) and a bunch of others.

That was my contribution to the hour. But, you might ask, what did the famous guy have to say?

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April’s right around the corner. Earlier today I finalized my taxes for last year. It’s never a pleasant task, but at least I had a better go of it than Stephen Baldwin.

Baldwin, the youngest of the Baldwin brothers, ran headlong into a mess of money troubles over the years and responded by ducking out on his taxes. To be precise, $350,000 worth of New York state taxes.

Now, according to his lawyer, the actor has reached an agreement with prosecutors that may not “restore” him, but is certainly better than the alternative…

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While most of you are busily reading about the latest effort from U.S. News to calculate with the incalculable, applying its formula to tease out razor-thin distinctions between law schools, you’re missing the demise of the once lauded Internet prediction site, InTrade. What were the odds?

Over the weekend, the Irish-based website shuttered itself completely, noting in a statement to customers that there may be “financial irregularities.” Uh-oh.

All this comes at the worst possible time for InTrade customers, who were looking to cash in on that sweet, sweet Conclave action…

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When the gavel fell yesterday, Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins found his office’s high-profile mortgage fraud case dismissed. What’s worse, Watkins found himself held in contempt of court by Judge Lena Levario.

The judge did not issue a sentence for the contempt charge, but jail time is not out of the question. I’d imagine District Attorneys are not popular in jail.

The trouble for Watkins revolves around the charge that he trumped up a case against a litigious spendthrift backed by a portion of a multi-billion dollar fortune, who nonetheless took out a giant mortgage that may or may not have been fraudulent. Blast you, adversarial legal system! Can’t we find a way to punish everyone in this case?

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Kevin Ring in happier times.

Full disclosure: Former Jack Abramoff associate Kevin Ring, whose criminal conviction was recently upheld by the D.C. Circuit, is a friend of mine.  We grew up in the same town and have known one another for decades. In no way is what follows unbiased or objective in any sense.  That said, I know that I’m right and the case against Kevin Ring was simply, unambiguously wrong.  Not to say that there was no ambiguity as to whether he broke a law — there was a tiny bit of that. But under no sane system of justice would Kevin be going to federal prison. Though he almost certainly is, pending a request for en banc rehearing from the D.C. Circuit followed by a Hail Mary filing for a writ of certiorari.

We can all stipulate that Jack Abramoff is one of the sleaziest and most repellent characters to besmirch the legal profession in decades.  (My favorite Abramoff moment: the time he tried convince his rabbi to bestow upon him  a fake, back-datedScholar of Talmudic Studies” award, so he could get in the Cosmos Club.)

Anyway, Abramoff was Kevin’s boss for three and a half years, during the final period of which they were both partners at Greenberg Traurig.  In the words of the judge at his sentencing hearing, Kevin was a “cog” in the Abramoff operation, a “second-tier level” administrator of the firm’s lobbying team.  I won’t try to spin Kevin’s time as a lobbyist as some honorable endeavor.  I couldn’t. Generally speaking, lobbyists are regarded by most of us as only slightly less distasteful than the politicians whose favor they are trying to curry.  But that does not make them criminals….

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Texas attorney Ray Marchan (Stanford ’82) has leapt from the Queen Isabella Bridge before turning himself in to federal authorities to serve a 3 1/2 year prison term. Marchan was convicted of six counts of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, aiding and abetting extortion, and mail fraud in connection with the bribing of former 404th District Judge Abel C. Limas to the tune of over $11,000

At this time, it’s unknown if Marchan was killed in the fall. Investigators are considering the possibility that he used the fall to escape….

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