Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Bear Stearns Securities Fraud Case Revisited

Let us revisit the Cioffi and Tannin matter. These two men, former Bear Stearns executives, were arrested June 2008 in connection with the collapse of two hedge funds under Bear sponsorship the preceding summer.

Both defendants are charged with securities fraud in that they made false and misleading statements to the investors about the health of these funds beginning in March. On the prosecution theory, they both understood by March that the funds were "toast" but continued to put on a happy face to the outside world.

The trial date is September 28 of this year.

I bring it up because there has been some motion practice in recent days. For example, Matthew Tannin's attorneys at Brune & Richards have filed a motion for a bill of particulars.

The indictment, as they paraphrase it in the memorandum supporting this motion, quotes selectively from certain e-mails, "apparently in an attempt to give an example of the alleged misstatements and ommissions falling into the categories it identifies."

But the indictment doesn't contain the phrase "to wit". When a bill of indictment says, "John Smith committed offense X, to wit he met in a room on March 10th with five accomplices and...." the phrase "to wit" means that the meeting in that room and what transpired there constitutes the offense X.

The indictment doesn't contain that phrase. The specifics offered are only meant, it appears, as examples of the misstatements, not as a complete account.

Tannin's lawyers understandably don't want to go into trial against an open-ended indictment. They want the government to be specific about each and every act that on its theory constitutes part of the offense. It has been a long long time since I took a Crim Pro course, and I'll be curious to see how this pans out.

There's also the question of Brady material. This relates to a rule announced by SCOTUS in 1963, that the government must disclose all exculpatory material in its possession, including such material as may assist defense counsel in impeaching prosecution witnesses. Apparently as part of the discovery process thus far the government has produced notes of its interviews with Raymond McGarrigal, one of the portfolio managers of the funds, a man who worked side by side with the two defendants during the crucial period and thus at least potentially a crucial witness.

Most of the McGarrigal material provided to the defendats, though, is blacked out. "Redacted," in the fancier term. Defense counsel says there is enough there to indicate McGarrigal made a series of highly exculpatory statements, and it wants to know what they were.

I'm sure the government has offered some justification for the redacting. I haven't done enough searchuing through the PACER materials yet to discover what it is, though.

It sounds as if the judge is going to have to navigate a minefield even to get this case to trial.

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