Law360 interviewed White Collar Criminal Defense Partner Thomas A. Hagemann of Gardere's Houston office. Among Law360's most well-received content, Law360 Q&As offer practice leaders at top law firms the opportunity to share their experience and insight. An excerpt may be viewed below.
Q&A with Gardere's Tom Hagemann
Q: What is the most challenging case you have worked on and what made it challenging?
A: Although every post-indictment case is invariably challenging when you're on the criminal defense side of the bar, the Nigerian Barge case – in which the Enron Task Force indicted four Merrill Lynch bankers and two Enron employees for a small year-end transaction – stands out somewhat for me. It wasn't just the fact that the Task Force would do or say anything to win, or that the city of Houston was then like a boiling anti-All Things Enron cauldron – although both those things were true. It was primarily because the criminal statute used by the prosecution was so hopelessly vague that it allowed ordinary businessmen to be indicted, tried and convicted for victimizing Enron based on a transaction that Enron wanted, designed and urged upon Merrill Lynch. This was the nonsensical heyday of "honest services fraud," before the 5th Circuit reversed all such convictions in the Barge case and the U.S. Supreme Court then pulled back the statute's reach in U.S. v. Skilling. The challenges can last a long time in my world: Our client was indicted in 2003, and it took until 2010 for us to convince the U.S. Department of Justice to drop the charges against him.
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