THERE is no recession for the white-collar criminal-defense bar.
Leading white-collar-crime attorneys are awash in litigation and
major law firms are gearing up for business defending corporations
and their executives against criminal and civil prosecution.
Massive scandals, such as the the savings-and-loan crisis, the
Salomon Brothers securities price-fixing scheme, the
money-laundering activities of the Bank of Credit and Commerce
International (BCCI), plus new federal "Guidelines for Sentencing"
that became law in November are generating more prosecutions, say
The decade of the '80s heightened public concern about
white-collar crime, says Whitney Adams, chairman of the
white-collar-crime committee of the American Bar Association.
Corrupt business executives, politicians, corporations, labor
unions, and even universities are "politically, an attractive issue
for prosecution today," she says.
The new federal guidelines pack a one-two legal punch for law
firms, says David Zarnow, a former prosecutor and partner in the
white-collar division of the New York-based Skadden, Arps, Slate,
Meagher & Flom, one of the largest and most profitable law firms in
the world. The guidelines not only increase the potential number of
white-collar and corporate clients, but also extend the reach of
prosecutors in criminal cases, he says. They substantially increase
the severity of the fines imposed on corporations convicted of a
wide range of federal offenses - for example, mail, wire,
securities, tax, and government-contract fraud.
Just five years ago, criminal-defense attorneys were in
specialized firms or practicing alone, says Mr. Zarnow. Now, many
of the leading criminal-defense attorneys have joined large law
Prosecutions are likely to increase because of two important
criteria that "get prosecutors involved" stemming from the new
guidelines, says Ms. Adams. A prosecutor asks two questions, she
says:What is the likelihood of winning? What is the likelihood of
getting good sanctions? The sanctions now are specific, focus on
compliance, and carry stiff penalities.
Techniques and prosecutorial tools developed for the war on
drugs, especially the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations Act (RICO) "pushed the envelope out," Zarnow says.
"We're living through a period where we seek to dispose of issues
of blame, of fault, of liability, through criminal litigation
rather than civil," he says. …