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November 25, 2022

Defense Attorney for Ex-Dewey CFO Asks Jurors to Bust Out Their Sarcasm Detectors

Ex-Dewey & LeBoeuf CFO Joel Sanders is on trial along with ex-Chairman Steven Davis and former executive director Stephen DiCarmineis for cooking the books at their law firm that went bankrupt in 2012.

Opening statements in the case were made yesterday but today, Mr. Sanders's attorney Andrew Frisch had his turn and he can explain the whole thing.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Frisch says that his client is just a "ordinary guy" that was trying to "do his job"; a man who went to "went to the banks when the firm ran into financial trouble."  

Furthermore, the emails that prosecutors are trying to make sound incriminating are not to be taken seriously:

Mr. Frisch highlighted some of the emails that are expected to serve as the prosecution’s key evidence, saying the term “fake income” that Mr. Sanders used in one email is a legitimate accounting term and that his reference to finding “another clueless auditor” was intended as sarcasm.
“Be cynical when you hear their interpretation of the emails,” Mr. Frisch told jurors, referring to prosecutors.
Just in case you want full context, it went something like this: 
“Can you find another clueless auditor for next year?” one of the defendants, former chief financial officer Joel Sanders, allegedly wrote in one email included in the 100-count indictment. The recipient responds: “That’s the plan. Worked perfect this year.”
Okay! So maybe there was an implied eyeroll in there, maybe there wasn't, but we are talking about employees of a law firm here. As we've discussed, lawyers don't think too highly of accountants and vice versa, so you'd be excused for being skeptical of Frisch's claim.  
However! Mr. Frisch might find himself in a pickle if he also plans to ask jurors to take other emails his client wrote much more seriously:
Mr. Sanders, [Frisch] argued, cared about keeping the firm alive, sending an email as the firm’s finances sagged saying, “We’ll go bankrupt. This is a disaster. The firm’s fate is in our hands. And 3,000 families are eating off a paycheck for Dewey & LeBoeuf. We can’t let this happen.”
Again, I think this can be read a couple different ways — the first being that Sanders is frantically typing this out under a dim reading lamp in the middle of the night, kept awake by the thought of lawyers' starving families; the second reading has me imagining that he's making the jerk-off motion the whole time.
Hopefully, the jury can sort this out. 

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