Justia White Collar Crime Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Business Law
United States v. You
You, a U.S. citizen of Chinese origin, worked as a chemist, testing the chemical coatings used in Coca-Cola’s beverage cans. You was one of only a few Coca-Cola employees with access to secret BPA-free formulas. You secretly planned to start a company in China to manufacture the BPA-free chemical and received business grants from the Chinese government, claiming that she had developed the world’s “most advanced” BPA-free coating technology. On her last night as a Coca-Cola employee, You transferred the formula files to her Google Drive account and then to a USB drive. You certified that she had not kept any confidential information. You then joined Eastman, where she copied company files to the same account and USB drive. Eastman fired You and became aware of her actions. Eastman retrieved the USB drive and reported You to the FBI.You was convicted of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, 18 U.S.C. 1832(a)(5), possessing stolen trade secrets, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit economic espionage, and economic espionage. The Sixth Circuit remanded for resentencing after rejecting You’s claims that the district court admitted racist testimony and gave jury instructions that mischaracterized the government’s burden of proof as to You’s knowledge of the trade secrets and their value to China. In calculating the intended loss, the court clearly erred by relying on market estimates that it deemed speculative and by confusing anticipated sales of You’s planned business with its anticipated profits. View "United States v. You" on Justia Law
Global Network Management, Ltd. v. CenturyLink Latin American Solutions, LLC
This diversity case arises out of the theft—possibly by a group of third-party contractors—of 1,380 memory cards that belonged to Global Network Management, LTD., and were stored in a data center operated by Centurylink Latin American Solutions, LLC. Global Network sued Centurylink for implied bailment, breach of contract implied in law, and breach of contract implied in fact to hold Centurylink liable for the theft of the memory cards. The district court dismissed all of the claims with prejudice, and Global Network now appeals. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court held that the district court correctly dismissed the contract implied in law and contract implied in fact claims. But Global Network plausibly alleged that Centurylink possessed the memory cards at the time of the theft, and as a result, the implied bailment claim survives at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage. The court explained that according to Centurylink, Global Network’s ability to visit the servers means that it did not possess the servers exclusively, and as a result, no bailment relationship was formed. But this argument does not carry the day at this stage of the proceeding, where the standard is plausibility and not probability. The court noted that it does not hold there was an implied bailment as a matter of fact or law; it only held that Global Network plausibly alleged an implied bailment. View "Global Network Management, Ltd. v. CenturyLink Latin American Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law
United States v. Palma
Palma worked for FCA starting in 2013 and allegedly participated in a scheme that manipulated FCA's new diesel engine’s function during testing to produce artificially impressive results with respect to features that FCA was targeting to customers, including fuel economy greater than 30 mpg and a frequency of fluid changes similar to that of gasoline-powered cars. When the vehicles were tested for emissions, the program activated Exhaust Gas Recirculation, sacrificing fuel economy. When the vehicles were tested for fuel economy, Recirculation was lowered, increasing emissions. Palma knew that these results were critical to receiving the “best-in-class” fuel economy ratings and that the vehicles did not meet EPA requirements. A sticker affixed to the cars stated they complied with regulations and provided detailed emissions information, as influenced by Palma's scheme. FCA sold more than 100,000 of these vehicles. Customers who purchased the vehicles said that the misleading representations were material to their purchase decisions.Palma was charged with 13 counts, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1349. The district court held that there was an insufficient causal nexus between Palma’s conduct and customers being induced to purchase vehicles and that Palma’s conduct was less a deprivation of consumer property and more a deception of regulators. The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of that count, reasoning that Palma was only charged with conspiracy, not wire fraud itself, and the indictment alleges adequate facts tying Palma to a fraudulent scheme. View "United States v. Palma" on Justia Law
United States v. Filer
Barsanti was delinquent on $1.1 million of senior secured debt it owed to BMO Harris Bank. Barsanti’s owner, Kelly, hired attorney Filer and Gereg, a financing consultant. After negotiations with BMO failed, Filer introduced Gereg to BMO as a person interested in purchasing Barsanti’s debt. Filer created a new company, BWC, to purchase the loans. BWC purchased the loans from BMO for $575,000, paid primarily with Barsanti’s accounts receivable. Barsanti also owed $370,000 in delinquent benefit payments to the Union Trust Fund. Filer, Kelly, and Gereg used BWC’s senior lien to obtain a state court judgment against Barsanti that allowed them to transfer Barsanti’s assets beyond the reach of the Union Fund, using backdated documents to put confession-of-judgment clauses into the loan documents and incorrectly claiming that Barsanti owed BWC $1.58 million. Filer then obtained a court order transferring Barsanti’s assets to BWC, which then transferred the assets to Millwork, another new entity, which continued Barsanti’s business after the Illinois Secretary of State dissolved Barsanti for unpaid taxes. Gereg was Millwork's nominal owner in filings with the Indiana Secretary of State. Barsanti filed for bankruptcy. Filer instructed others not to produce certain documents to the bankruptcy trustee.After a jury convicted Filer of wire fraud 18 U.S.C. 1343., the district court granted his motions for a judgment of acquittal. The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded. The evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s verdicts. View "United States v. Filer" 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. 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 the conduct—i.e., that the bank defendants presented fraudulent submissions to an organization based in London that set a benchmark rate related to a foreign currency—occurred almost entirely overseas. Indeed, Plaintiff fails 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. Further, the court wrote that the district court also correctly concluded that Plaintiff lacked antitrust standing because he would not be an efficient enforcer of the antitrust laws. Lastly, the court agreed that 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
General Motors, LLC v. FCA US, LLC
The 2008 financial crisis caused GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy. In Europe, Fiat faced similar troubles. Fiat CEO Marchionne forged a relationship with the United Auto Workers (UAW). Fiat negotiated a partial purchase of Chrysler. Chrysler and the UAW agreed to Marchionne’s request to jettison certain traditional union protections. The companies emerged from bankruptcy with the UAW large percentages of their equity.GM alleges that Marchionne subsequently implemented a bribery scheme to revive Chrysler and harm GM. Fiat acquired the UAW’s stake in Chrysler. The new entity, “FCA,” allegedly “began a long-running intentional scheme of improper payments" to UAW officials … to influence the collective bargaining process, providing Chrysler with labor peace and competitive advantages. GM rejected Marchionne's proposal for a merger in 2015; although bribed UAW executives pressed GM to agree. During subsequent collective bargaining, the UAW and FCA allegedly conspired “to force enormous costs on GM.”In 2017, the Justice Department criminally charged numerous FCA executives and UAW officials. Several entered guilty pleas. FCA pleaded guilty and agreed to a $30 million fine. The UAW agreed to a consent decree, requiring federal monitoring.GM sued FCA, Fiat, and individuals, asserting RICO claims, 18 U.S.C. 1962(b), (c), and (d). The district court dismissed. Assuming that FCA committed RICO violations, they were either indirect or too remote to have proximately caused GM’s alleged injuries. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, first rejecting an argument that the NLRB had exclusive jurisdiction. The court noted the existence of a more “immediate victim,” the FCA workers, “better situated to sue.” GM has not alleged that it would have received the same benefits as FCA absent the corruption. View "General Motors, LLC v. FCA US, LLC" on Justia Law
Federal Trade Commission, et al. v. Zurixx, et al.
David Efron and Efron Dorado SE (collectively, "Efron") appealed a civil contempt order entered by the district court for violating its preliminary injunction. This litigation began when the Federal Trade Commission and the Utah Division of Consumer Protection filed a complaint in the federal district court against Zurixx, LLC and related entities. The complaint alleged Zurixx marketed and sold deceptive real-estate investment products. The district court entered a stipulated preliminary injunction, enjoining Zurixx from continuing its business activities and freezing its assets wherever located. The injunction also directed any person or business with actual knowledge of the injunction to preserve any of Zurixx’s assets in its possession, and it prohibited any such person or business from transferring those assets. A week later, the receiver filed a copy of the complaint and injunction in federal court in Puerto Rico, where Zurixx leased office space from Efron. The office contained Zurixx’s computers, furniture, and other assets. The receiver also notified Efron of the receivership and gave him actual notice of the injunction. Although Efron at first allowed the receiver access to the office to recover computers and files, he later denied access to remove the remaining assets and initiated eviction proceedings against Zurixx in a Puerto Rico court. Given these events, the receiver moved the district court in Utah for an order holding Efron in contempt of court for violating the injunction. In response, Efron claimed the assets belonged to him under his lease agreement with Zurixx. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal determined the contempt order was a non-final decision. It therefore dismissed this appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Federal Trade Commission, et al. v. Zurixx, et al." on Justia Law
In Re Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, LLC
Picard was appointed as the trustee for the liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (BLMIS) pursuant to the Securities Investor Protection Act, 15 U.S.C. 78aaa, to recover funds for victims of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. SIPA empowers trustees to recover property transferred by the debtor where the transfers are void or voidable under the Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. 548, 550, to the extent those provisions are consistent with SIPA. Under Sections 548 and 550, a transferee may retain transfers it took “for value” and “in good faith.” Picard sued to recover payments the defendants received either directly or indirectly from BLMIS. The district court held that a lack of good faith in a SIPA liquidation requires that the defendant-transferee has acted with “willful blindness” and that the trustee bears the burden of pleading the transferee’s lack of good faith. Relying on the district court’s legal conclusions, the bankruptcy court dismissed the actions, finding Picard did not plausibly allege the defendants were willfully blind to the fraud at BLMIS.The Second Circuit vacated. Nothing in SIPA compels departure from the well-established rule that the defendant bears the burden of pleading an affirmative defense. The district court erred by holding that the trustee bears the burden of pleading a lack of good faith under Sections 548(c) and 550(b)(1). View "In Re Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, LLC" 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