Justia White Collar Crime Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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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

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Defendant, a California licensed attorney, challenged (1) the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction for transmitting extortionate communications in interstate commerce to sportswear leader Nike, attempted Hobbs Act extortion of Nike, and honest-services wire fraud of the client whom Defendant was purportedly representing in negotiations with Nike. Defendant further challenged the trial court’s jury instruction as to honest-services fraud and the legality of a $259,800.50 restitution award to Nike.   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the trial evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction for the two charged extortion counts because a reasonable jury could find that Defendant’s threat to injure Nike’s reputation and financial position was wrongful in that the multi-million-dollar demand supported by the threat bore no nexus to any claim of right. Further, the court held that the trial evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction for honest-services fraud because a reasonable jury could find that Defendant solicited a bribe from Nike in the form of a quid pro quo whereby Nike would pay Defendant many millions of dollars in return for which Defendant would violate his fiduciary duty as an attorney. The court further explained that the district court did not exceed its authority under the MVRA by awarding restitution more than 90 days after initial sentencing, and Defendant has shown no prejudice from the delayed award. Finally, the court wrote that the MVRA applies in this case where Nike sustained a pecuniary loss directly attributable to those crimes as a result of incurring fees for its attorneys to attend the meeting demanded by Defendant at which he first communicated his extortionate threat. View "United States v. Avenatti" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant appealed from a district court order granting summary judgment to Defendants-Appellees on his claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). On appeal, Appellant argued that the district court erroneously held that he lacks RICO standing to sue for his lost earnings because those losses flowed from, or were derivative of, an antecedent personal injury.   The Second Circuit vacated and remanded. The court explained that RICO’s civil-action provision, 18 U.S.C. Section 1964(c), authorizes a plaintiff to sue for injuries to “business or property.” While that language implies that a plaintiff cannot sue for personal injuries, that negative implication does not bar a plaintiff from suing for injuries to business or property simply because a personal injury was antecedent to those injuries. The court explained that it is simply wrong to suggest that the antecedent-personal-injury bar is necessary to ensure “genuine limitations” in Section 1964(c), or to give restrictive significance to Congress’s implicit intent to exclude some class of injuries by the phrase “business or property”’ when it enacted RICO. View "Horn v. Medical Marijuana, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Douglas Horn appealed the district court’s order of the granting summary judgment to Defendants on his claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). On appeal, Appellant argues that the district court erroneously held that he lacks RICO 11 standing to sue for his lost earnings because those losses flowed from, or were derivative of, an antecedent personal injury.   The Second Circuit agreed and vacated the order granting summary judgment to Appellees on Appellant’s civil RICO claim and remanded to the district court. The court explained that RICO’s civil-action provision, 18 U.S.C. Section 1964(c), authorizes a plaintiff to sue for injuries to 14 “business or property.” While that language implies that a plaintiff cannot sue for personal injuries, that negative implication does not bar a plaintiff from suing for injuries to business or property simply because a personal injury was antecedent to those injuries. View "Horn v. Medical Marijuana, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued her brother, the executor of their father's estate, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The district court held that Plaintiff's claims were barred by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“RICO Amendment”), which provides that “no person may rely upon any conduct that would have been actionable as fraud in the purchase or sale of securities to establish a violation of [RICO].” 18 U.S.C.1964(c).The Second Circuit reversed, holding that Plaintiff's claims were not barred by the RICO Amendment because the fraud she alleged was not related to the “purchase or sale of securities.” The alleged frauds committed by her brother "only incidentally involved securities, unlike a securities broker who sells client securities in breach of his duty to execute securities transactions in the best interests of the client." View "D'Addario v. D'Addario" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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Defendant was convicted after a jury trial of conspiracy to commit mail, wire, and bank fraud. On appeal, Defendant argued that her pretrial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to transmit a plea offer from the government to Defendant before it expired, thereby depriving her of the chance to plead guilty under the terms of the offer.   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment of conviction. The court concluded that Defendant has waived any claim that the alleged error violated her Sixth Amendment rights. Unlike the defendant in Frye, Defendant learned of her expired plea offer and received new court-appointed counsel two months before trial. She nonetheless chose to go to trial rather than to plead guilty or to petition the court for reinstatement of the offer. This knowing and the voluntary choice was inconsistent with seeking the benefit of the expired plea offer and thus constitutes waiver.
The court further found that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of Defendant’s other fraudulent activity that was similar and/or related to the charged conduct; the court did not err by allowing the government to introduce certain “red flag” emails from an outside attorney for the limited purpose of proving her knowledge, and the court’s decision to instruct the jury on conscious avoidance was proper. View "United States v. Graham" on Justia Law

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The American subsidiary of Alstom Power, Inc. (“API”), a global power and transportation services company, hired two consultants to bribe Indonesian officials to help secure a $118 million power contract. Defendant, who worked in Paris for API’s United Kingdom subsidiary, was allegedly responsible for approving the selection of the consultants and authorizing payments to them. For his role in the alleged bribery scheme, Defendant was charged in an American court with (among other things) violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act  (“FCPA”), which makes it unlawful for officers, directors, and agents “of a domestic concern” to use interstate commerce corruptly to bribe or attempt to bribe foreign officials. Defendant appealed. Defendant moved for acquittal, arguing he was not an agent within the meaning of the FCPA. The district court granted that motion; the government appealed and Defendant cross-appealed.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling holding that the district court properly acquitted Defendant under Rule 29 because there was no agency or employee relationship between Defendant and API. The court also affirmed on the cross‐appeal, finding no error in either the district court’s speedy trial analysis or its jury instructions.     The court explained that while there is some evidence that Defendant supported API in his working relationship with the corporation, it is not sufficient to establish that API exercised control over the scope and duration of its relationship with Defendant. Further, the district court’s analysis of the Barker factors and dismissal of Defendant’s Sixth Amendment claim falls “within the range of permissible decisions. View "United States v. Hoskins" on Justia Law

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The Mandatory Victims Restitution Act requires defendants convicted of certain crimes to reimburse their victims for “lost income and necessary child care, transportation, and other expenses incurred during participation in the investigation or prosecution of the offense or attendance at proceedings related to the offense,” 18 U.S.C. 3663A(b)(4). The Second Circuit previously held that “other expenses” could include attorneys’ fees incurred by victims while helping the government investigate and prosecute the defendant and costs incurred while privately investigating the defendant. The Supreme Court subsequently held that “the words ‘investigation’ and ‘proceedings’ are limited to government investigations and criminal proceedings.”Afriyie was convicted of securities fraud after trading on inside information he misappropriated from his employer, MSD. The district court entered the restitution order, covering the fees MSD paid its law firm to guide MSD’s compliance with investigations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the SEC; to help prepare four MSD witnesses to testify at Afriyie’s criminal trial; and to represent MSD during the post-verdict restitution proceedings.The Second Circuit held that attorneys’ fees can sometimes be “other expenses” but a victim cannot recover expenses incurred while participating in an SEC investigation. Restitution is appropriate only for expenses associated with criminal matters; civil matters, including SEC investigations, even if closely related to a criminal case do not qualify. View "United States v. Afriyie" on Justia Law