Maybe! Denis Field’s lawyers certainly aren’t amused with the tactics:
Denis Field, ex-CEO of BDO Seidman, the world’s fifth largest accounting firm, claims Manhattan prosecutors intimidated his former firm into curtailing and eventually cutting off payments to his lawyers. In recently filed court papers, he claims that the government deprived him of his constitutional right to counsel and seeks dismissal of the case.
Field alleges that among other tactics, prosecutors threatened to indict the firm if it kept funding his defense. During a hearing on Thursday, U.S. Judge William Pauley III of the Southern District of New York, who is presiding over the case, closely questioned prosecutors about the accusations. A ruling is expected soon.
If this sounds familiar, it should. Back in 2007, the very same prosecutors – Stanley Okula and Shirah Neiman – pulled a similar stunt, “convincing” KPMG not to pay the legal fees for the partners and employees that were facing criminal charges for their roles in the firm’s tax shelter schemes:
That case was thrown out in 2007 after U.S. Judge Lewis Kaplan found that prosecutors had improperly “coerced” KPMG into cutting off the legal fees of 13 former KPMG partners and employees. “KPMG refused to pay because the government held the proverbial gun to its head,” Kaplan wrote.
Two of the prosecutors called out by Judge Kaplan — Stanley Okula and Shirah Neiman — have also been involved in the Field case, a fact that is prominently noted by Field’s lawyers in their motion to dismiss. “The reason for the government’s conduct is obvious — as with KPMG, the prosecutors believed BDO ‘should not pay the fees’ of allegedly culpable individuals,” Field’s lawyers argue. They cited the KPMG case no fewer than 50 times in their brief.
So it appears that Okula and Neiman aren’t much for personal reflection and may have pulled out the proverbial gun again. But they’re making a case for themselves, saying BDO’s motivation for sticking Field with the tab isn’t related to them putting the screws to the firm, “the government argues that BDO stopped paying Field’s legal bills after the firm discovered that Field hid from the board a report, prepared by law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, warning that certain tax shelters that Field was promoting were questionable.” Hey! – you can even ask BDO’s general counsel, he’ll tell you that the firm’s decision had nothing to do with get the government off their backs. And if you can’t believe a lawyer, who can you believe?
Prosecutors on defensive in BDO Seidman fraud case [Reuters]