Justia White Collar Crime Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Banking
Mirlis v. Greer
Defendant appealed the district court’s judgment awarding damages to Plaintiff to recover funds Defendant received as the result of various alleged fraudulent transfers. The district court entered a default against Defendant as a sanction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(b) for her repeated failure to comply with discovery orders and ultimately entered a default judgment against Defendant for fraudulent transfers, awarding Plaintiff damages calculated based on three checks Defendant drew from bank accounts she held jointly with her debtor husband. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Defendant’s noncompliance during discovery warranted a default. The court explained that Defendant failed to respond to interrogatories and produce the documents Plaintiff requested, in violation of the district court’s many orders. This record supports the district court’s determination that Defendant acted willfully, that lesser sanctions would have been inadequate given Defendant’s continued noncompliance after multiple explicit warnings about the consequences of further noncompliance, that Defendant was given ample notice that her continued noncompliance would result in sanctions, including the entry of default judgment, and that her noncompliance spanned more than six months. The court also concluded that Defendant’s withdrawals from accounts she held jointly with her husband constitute fraudulent transfers under Connecticut law. View "Mirlis v. Greer" on Justia Law
Marion v. Bryn Mawr Trust Co.
Robert Bentley (Bentley) was a broker of certificates of deposits (CDs). He operated his business through two entities: Bentley Financial Services (BFS) and Entrust Group (Entrust). Entrust had a $2 million line of credit with Main Line Federal Savings Bank (Main Line). In 1996, Main Line terminated the line of credit after the bank discovered Bentley had forged his accountant’s signature on a document. Main Line demanded repayment of the outstanding $2 million balance. In order to pay back Main Line, Bentley sold $2 million of fake CDs. Thereafter, Bentley engaged in a Ponzi scheme in which he would sell fraudulent or fictitious CDs to new investors in order to pay off previous investors. In 1997, as he continued to defraud investors, Bentley opened deposit and wire transfer accounts with a new bank, Bryn Mawr Trust Company (BMT). Bentley became one of BMT’s largest customers. In 2001, the Securities and Exchange Commission commenced an action against Bentley for his Ponzi scheme. The federal court appointed David Marion (Marion) as a receiver for BFS and Entrust. In 2004, Marion initiated this case. Marion’s complaint, amended in 2012, raised claims of breach of fiduciary duty, breach of the Uniform Fiduciaries Act (UFA), aiding and abetting fraud, and negligence. In 2014, the trial court granted summary judgment to BMT on the claim of aiding and abetting fraud. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted limited discretionary review to consider whether to recognize a cause of action for aiding and abetting fraud and, if so, to determine the scienter requirement for this tort. The Court held aiding and abetting fraud was a cognizable claim under Pennsylvania law, and the required state of mind was actual knowledge of the fraud. Accordingly, the Superior Court’s decision was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded to the trial court for a new trial. View "Marion v. Bryn Mawr Trust Co." on Justia Law
Laydon v. Coöperatieve Rabobank U.A., et al.
Plaintiff brought this putative class action against more than twenty banks and brokers, alleging a conspiracy to manipulate two benchmark rates known as Yen-LIBOR and Euroyen TIBOR. He claimed that he was injured after purchasing and trading a Euroyen TIBOR futures contract on a U.S.-based commodity exchange because the value of that contract was based on a distorted, artificial Euroyen TIBOR. Plaintiff brought claims under the Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”), and the Sherman Antitrust Act, and sought leave to assert claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). The district court dismissed the CEA and antitrust claims and denied leave to add the RICO claims. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the district court erred by holding that the CEA claims were impermissibly extraterritorial, that he lacked antitrust standing to assert a Sherman Act claim, and that he failed to allege proximate causation for his proposed RICO claims. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that fraudulent submissions to an organization based in London that set a benchmark rate related to a foreign currency—occurred almost entirely overseas. Here Plaintiff failed to allege any significant acts that took place in the United States. Plaintiff’s CEA claims are based predominantly on foreign conduct and are thus impermissibly extraterritorial. As such, the district court also correctly concluded that Plaintiff lacked antitrust standing because he would not be an efficient enforcer of the antitrust laws. Finally, Plaintiff failed to allege proximate causation for his RICO claims. View "Laydon v. Coöperatieve Rabobank U.A., et al." on Justia Law
Grow Michigan, LLC v. LT Lender, LLC
Lightning, a Delaware start-up company that owns intellectual property protecting designs for a pallet used for transporting cold foods, sought $26 million in outside funding to retire debt, cover operational expenses, and purchase equipment to begin production. GrowMI, an entity created by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, agreed to loan Lightning $5 million and used its relationship with Flagstar Bank to secure an additional $7 million loan. GrowMI and Flagstar conditioned their loans on Lightning’s securing the rest of the $26 million by selling equity and securing lines of credit from Lightning shareholders. Lightning’s creditor LT sent GrowMI a letter indicating that Lightning owed LT $3.3 million, secured by an interest in Lightning’s intellectual properties. GrowMI allowed Lightning to use a portion of GrowMI’s loan to repay LT, ensuring GrowMI’s first secured position on Lightning’s intellectual properties.GrowMI subsequently became aware of wrongdoing at Lightning, which defaulted on its debt to GrowMI. GrowMI sued LT and its principals, Lightning shareholders, Lightning employees, and a consulting company, alleging violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1962, by a pattern of racketeering activity that included bank fraud, transactions involving money derived from that bank fraud, trade secrets misappropriation, and wire fraud. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. GrowMI’s claims rest on its status as Lightning’s creditor, making its injury derivative of the harm incurred by Lightning. GrowMI does not plausibly allege that it was directly injured by reason of the alleged racketeering activities. View "Grow Michigan, LLC v. LT Lender, LLC" on Justia Law
United States v. Palladinetti
Palladinetti and others purchased 30 Chicago-area apartment buildings and resold individual apartments as condominiums. Using a process that Palladinetti helped create, his co-defendants bought the buildings, falsely representing to lenders that they had made down payments. Palladinetti served as his co-defendants’ attorney for the purchases and sales and as the registered agent for LLCs formed to facilitate the scheme. The group recruited buyers for the condominiums and prepared their mortgage applications, misrepresenting facts to ensure they qualified for the loans.Palladinetti and his co-defendants were charged with seven counts of bank fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1344(1) and (2), and nine counts of making false statements on loan applications, 18 U.S.C. 1014 and 2. Count one involved a $345,000 mortgage that Palladinetti’s wife obtained for the purchase of a residence. That mortgage application was prepared using the group’s fraudulent scheme in July 2005. The government agreed to dismiss all other counts if Palladinetti were convicted on count one. Because Palladinetti stipulated to almost all elements of section 1344(1), the trial was limited to whether the bank he defrauded was insured by the FDIC when the mortgage application was submitted.The Seventh Circuit affirmed his conviction. The testimony and exhibits demonstrated that one entity was continuously insured, 1997-2008, that on the date the mortgage was executed that entity was “Washington Mutual Bank” and also did business as “Washington Mutual Bank, FA,” and that entity was the lender for the mortgage at issue. View "United States v. Palladinetti" on Justia Law
United States v. Yates
Heine and Yates, bank executives, were convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud (18 U.S.C. 1349) and 12 counts of making a false bank entry (18 U.S.C. 1005). The government told the jury that the two conspired to deprive the bank of accurate financial information in its records, the defendants’ salaries, and the use of bank funds.The Ninth Circuit vacated. There is no cognizable property interest in the ethereal right to accurate information. Distinguishing between a scheme to obtain a new or higher salary and a scheme to deceive an employer while continuing to draw an existing salary, the court held that the salary-maintenance theory was also legally insufficient. Even assuming the bank-funds theory was valid, the government’s reliance on those theories was not harmless. The court instructed the jury that it could find the defendants guilty of making false entries as co-conspirators, so the court also vacated the false-entry convictions. The court noted that insufficient evidence supported certain false entry convictions. View "United States v. Yates" on Justia Law
Severin Mobile Towing, Inc. v. JPMorgan Chase etc.
Over the course of a few years, an employee of Severin Mobile Towing Inc. (Severin) took about $157,000 in checks made payable to Severin’s d/b/a, endorsed them with what appears to be his own name or initials, and deposited them into his personal account at JPMorgan Chase Bank N.A. (Chase). Because the employee deposited all the checks at automated teller machines (ATM’s), and because each check was under $1,500, Chase accepted each check without “human review.” When Severin eventually discovered the embezzlement, it sued Chase for negligence and conversion under California’s version of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), and for violating the unfair competition law. Severin moved for summary judgment on its conversion cause of action, and Chase moved for summary judgment of all of Severin’s claims, asserting affirmative defenses under the UCC, and that claims as to 34 of the 211 stolen checks were time- barred. The trial court granted Chase’s motion on statute of limitations and California Uniform Commercial Law section 3405 grounds; the court did not reach UCL section 3406. The court denied Severin’s motion as moot, and entered judgment for Chase. On appeal, Severin argued only that the court erred in granting summary judgment to Chase on Severin’s conversion cause of action (and, by extension, the derivative UCL cause of action). Specifically, Severin argued the court erroneously granted summary judgment under section 3405 because Chase failed to meet its burden of establishing that Severin’s employee fraudulently indorsed the stolen checks in a manner “purporting to be that of [his] employer.” Severin further argued factual disputes about its reasonableness in supervising its employee precluded summary judgment under section 3406. The Court of Appeal agreed with Severin in both respects, and therefore did not reach the merits of Chase’s claim that its automated deposit procedures satisfied the applicable ordinary care standard. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Severin Mobile Towing, Inc. v. JPMorgan Chase etc." on Justia Law
Gateway Bank, F.S.B. v. Metaxas
Metaxas was the president and CEO of Gateway Bank in 2008, during the financial crisis. Federal regulators categorized Gateway as a “troubled institution.” Gateway tried to raise capital and deal with its troubled assets. Certain transactions resulted in a lengthy investigation. The U.S. Attorney became involved. Metaxas was indicted. In 2015, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Gateway sued Metaxas based on two transactions involving Ideal Mortgage: a March 2009 $3.65 million working capital loan and a November 2009 $757,000 wire transfer. A court-appointed referee awarded Gateway $250,000 in tort-of-another damages arising from “the fallout” from the first transaction, and $132,000 in damages for the second.The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that the first transaction resulted in “substantial benefit” to Gateway and that Metaxas had no alternative but to approve the wire transfer. Gateway did not ask for any purported “benefit.” The evidence showed that the Board would not have approved either the toxic asset sale or the working capital loan if Metaxas had disclosed the true facts. Metaxas damaged Gateway’s reputation. Metaxas knew that the government was trying to shut Ideal down but approved the wire transfer on the last business day before Ideal was shut down, by expressly, angrily, overruling the CFO. View "Gateway Bank, F.S.B. v. Metaxas" on Justia Law
United States v. Harra
Wilmington Trust financed construction projects. Extensions were commonplace. Wilmington’s loan documents reserved its right to “renew or extend (repeatedly and for any length of time) this loan . . . without the consent of or notice to anyone.” Wilmington’s internal policy did not classify all mature loans with unpaid principals as past due if the loans were in the process of renewal and interest payments were current, Following the 2008 "Great Recession," Wilmington excluded some of the loans from those it reported as “past due” to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve. Wilmington’s executives maintained that, under a reasonable interpretation of the reporting requirements, the exclusion of the loans from the “past due” classification was proper. The district court denied their requests to introduce evidence concerning or instruct the jury about that alternative interpretation. The jury found the reporting constituted “false statements” under 18 U.S.C. 1001 and 15 U.S.C. 78m, and convicted the executives.The Third Circuit reversed in part. To prove falsity beyond a reasonable doubt in this situation, the government must prove either that its interpretation of the reporting requirement is the only objectively reasonable interpretation or that the defendant’s statement was also false under the alternative, objectively reasonable interpretation. The court vacated and remanded the conspiracy and securities fraud convictions, which were charged in the alternative on an independent theory of liability, View "United States v. Harra" on Justia Law
United States v. Ginsberg
Spring Hill owned a 240-apartment complex in a Chicago suburb. In 2007, the owner converted the apartments into condominiums and attempted to sell them. Ginsberg recruited several people to buy units in bulk, telling them they would not need to put their own money down and that he would pay them after the closings. The scheme was a fraud that consisted of multiple components and false statements to trick financial institutions into loaning nearly $5,000,000 for these transactions. The seller made payments through Ginsberg that the buyers should have made, which meant that the stated sales prices were shams, the loans were under-collateralized, and the “buyers” had nothing at stake. The seller paid Ginsberg about $1,200,000; Ginsberg used nearly $600,000 to make payments the buyers should have made, paid over $200,000 to the buyers and their relatives, and kept nearly $400,000 for himself. The loans ultimately went into default, causing the financial institutions significant losses.The Seventh Circuit affirmed Ginsberg’s bank fraud conviction, 18 U.S.C. 1344. The evidence was sufficient for the jury to conclude Ginsberg knew that the loan applications, real estate contracts, and settlement statements contained materially false information about the transactions, including the sales prices, the down payments, and Ginsberg's fees. The court rejected a challenge to the admission of testimony by a title company employee. View "United States v. Ginsberg" on Justia Law