I’ve got a piece in this morning’s National Review Online on some of the ironies of the Spitzer scandal, which recalls echoes of the former prosecutor’s own “imperial CEO” rhetoric and may hinge on a crime — the “structuring” of cash transactions — whose enactment was very much part of the trend toward more ferocious white-collar law enforcement that you might call Spitzerization. (Walter Olson, “Saving Spitzer”, Mar. 11). P.S. I’ve also rounded up a lot of web coverage of the scandal over at Point of Law.
A helpful reader sends along the following information about the offense of “structuring”, which federal investigators are reportedly looking at closely in connection with the Spitzer affair:
If Spitzer structured cash transactions to evade reporting requirements, he may be guilty of a felony. 31 U.S.C. 5324 prohibits certain actions by any person who acts with the purpose of evading the reporting requirements of Section 5313 (Currency Transaction Reports). The definition of structuring for purposes of currency transaction reporting is found at 31 C.F.R. 103.11(gg). The elements of the structuring regulations are:
A person acting alone, in conjunction with others, or on behalf of others,
Conducts or attempts to conduct,
One or more transactions in currency,
In any amount,
At one or more financial institutions,
On one or more days,
For the purpose of evading the reporting requirements of 31 C.F.R. 103.22 (requiring CTRs).
The definition is specifically written to include those transactions which occur beyond a single business day and transactions which are conducted through more than one financial institution, but only if the purpose of the transaction(s) is to evade the reporting requirements.
The reader adds: “The IRS Manual on the BSA structuring provisions is here.”
More: Kerr @ Volokh, WLS @ Patterico, Daniel Gross @ Slate , Mark Steyn (“Almost every white-collar federal offense – wire fraud, mail fraud – boils down to ‘paying for the train ticket'”), American Lawyer, ABC News, as well as my new piece @ NRO.
Yet more, from Eric Turkewitz: “It seems likely that an amount in excess of $10,000 must be at issue if this is what was being investigated, which means more of a mess than Eliot already has. And to tickle the bank to act, it may be a sum well in excess of that amount, because I wouldn’t think an investigation would be opened if they simply saw two transactions of, say, $6,000 each a few days apart. There could be substantially more at play here.”
You know you want to discuss it, so go ahead (news reference).
Ted Frank and Michael Krauss are covering the new Supreme Court decision in Riegel v. Medtronic — one of the biggest wins for the product liability defense side in memory. We’ve also got plenty of coverage of the mortgage/foreclosure situation: Providence’s dumb idea for a punitive tax on vacant properties, the role of the Comptroller’s office, bond insurers’ woes, and some bad ideas from Hillarymandias. Plus off-label prescribing, suicidality, and Ted on Trasylol; and Obama comedown syndrome.
Glenn Reynolds quotes (AEI visiting scholar) Jack Goldsmith:
In my two years in the government, I witnessed top officials and bureaucrats in the White House and throughout the administration openly worrying that investigators acting with the benefit of hindsight in a different political environment would impose criminal penalties on heat-of-battle judgment calls. These men and women did not believe they were breaking the law, and indeed they took extraordinary steps to ensure that they didn’t. But they worried nonetheless because they would be judged in an atmosphere different from when they acted, because the criminal investigative process is mysterious and scary, because lawyers’ fees can cause devastating financial losses, and because an investigation can produce reputation-ruining dishonor and possibly end one’s career, even if you emerge “innocent.”
Reynolds: “As I’ve said before, this war has been overlawyered, which is not to say it has been well-lawyered. … Law and lawyers are swell in their place. The extent of that place, however, is not unlimited.” And a Reynolds commenter says:
Welcome to the post-SarBox, [Eliot] Spitzer world. We in business face this on a regular basis. I can’t decide whether I’m glad public servants experience the same headaches we do or concerned because an intelligence/military failure costs lives, while a business failure costs only money (though when Spitzer was around, it also sometimes cost freedom).
In business, not only has bad judgment become a crime, so has a good decision made on the basis of incomplete information, which later turns out to have been the wrong call. This is not good for America, where innovation and risk are what we do better than Europe, China, or India.
In the words of the master blogger himself, Read the whole thing.
Evan Sparks on the governor’s latest attack on federalism.
- Despite seeming majority support in both houses, conference committee on the Hill drops protection against lawsuits for “John Does” who report suspicious security behavior to authorities [PowerLine, Malkin; see May 11, etc.]
- U.K. town advises holders of allotment gardens: you could be liable if trespasser gets hurt vandalizing your trellises [Gloucestershire Echo; Cheltenham, Prestbury, etc.]
- School groundskeeper fired for illiteracy sues under ADA; suit’s future may depend on whether he can allege underlying predisposition such as dyslexia [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, StLRecruiting]
- Large Pakistan bank should pay for my husband’s murder, says Mariane Pearl in lawsuit [NYSun]
- Tell it to the EEOC, bud: Pennsylvania survey of law firm “diversity” finds plaintiff’s firms lag well behind their business/defense counterparts when it comes to hiring minorities [Legal Intelligencer first and second pieces]
- Spare a tear for Gov. Spitzer, never realized public life would be such a rough and tumble affair [Kirkendall]
- Trail of bogus auto accidents and “runners” leads to West Orange, N.J. lawyer and his law firm, say prosecutors [NJLJ; related New Jersey report on insurance fraud, PDF]
- I’m interviewed re: the Giuliani announcement [Paul Mirengoff @ PowerLine] and publicity in National Journal is nice too [Blog-O-Meter]
- Two Australian grave owners sue for damages over loss of feng shui [Melbourne Age]
- You have to let me use your bathroom, I’ve got a note from my doctor [Robert Guest on Texas legislation]
- New at Point of Law: University of Alberta lawprof Moin Yahya is guestblogging this week on Conrad Black trial, extraterritoriality, antitrust, etc.
- Quadriplegic sues Florida strip club under ADA because its lap dance room not wheelchair accessible [five years ago on Overlawyered]
- Update to Maine Board of Tourism intimidate-a-blogger-by-litigation lawsuit: case dismissed, government official fired. [Maine Web Report; AP/Boston Globe]
- Senter blocks State Farm Katrina class settlement. [Point of Law; Rossmiller; Woullard v. State Farm]
- Senator Schumer (D-NY) calls for liability reform to save New York economy; Governor Spitzer shows up at press conference. [Point of Law]
- Canadian $10M settlement for Syrian torture: that’s what we get for trusting Syria. [Frum]
- Remember that case in Snohomish where the celebratory cannon blew up at the football game? And the plaintiffs’ lawyer complained that the injured student was getting threatened by the townspeople over his lawsuit? Turns out the student (allegedly) told a youth minister that he deliberately overloaded the cannon for “a bigger bang,” and now is (allegedly) harassing the minister. And the original threats had nothing to do with football spirit. Everett Herald]
- Regulations drive restaurateurs from New York to friendlier (if armpittier) climes. [New York via Taylor]
- Suit: suicide fault of auto dealership sponsoring “Hands on a Hardbody” contest. [AP/ Austin American-Statesman]
- Nanny statism meets failure to contemplate ex ante vs. ex post thinking in UK: new Manchester police policy is to refuse to chase helmetless bicycle thieves. [Telegraph (h/t F.R.)](earlier)
- Private eyes and lawyers among the transactions costs of rent regulation in New York. [NYT]
- The war on science doesn’t just come from the right. [Adler @ Volokh; Sandefur @ Positive Liberty]
- Mrs. Alito is very cool [WaPo via Bashman]
- Med mal: does sorry work? [Point of Law]
- Med mal: Nelu Radonescu v. Naum Ciomu. I think the damages were too low, since the act was intentional. But it’s in Romania. [Metro UK]
- New San Francisco sick leave law helps workers at big chains (if only in the short term) and lawyers, hurts everyone else. [Point of Law]
- Vioxx medical monitoring class action to proceed. [Point of Law; Drug and Device Law Blog]
- And the next Vioxx trial in New Jersey, starting Monday. [Point of Law]
- Adware displays porn on teacher’s computer, she faces 40 years. [roundup of links at Boing Boing]
- Fraud in Ohio asbestos case plus slap on wrist for lawyer; no consequences for plaintiff. [Point of Law; Adler @ Volokh]
- Always open mail from California. [Cal Biz Lit]
- $100 million legal bill defending oneself against Spitzerism. [WSJ Law Blog]
- “It would probably be better for the nation if more of the gifted went into the sciences and fewer into the law.” [Murray @ OpinionJournal]
- Borat accepting Golden Globe: “And thank you to every American who has not sued me so far.” [Above the Law; Throwing Things]
- OJ’s book contract. [Slate]
- Contra Doonesbury, Bush administration not hiding age of Grand Canyon [The Daily Gut via Captain Spaulding; Adler @ Volokh]
- Stephen Colbert “eviscerates” Dinesh D’Souza. [Comedy Central via Evanier]