Corporate fraud is one of the FBI’s top priorities. While it’s true that this type of fraud has always been an issue, the Enron scandal of 2001 really seemed to put corporate fraud on the mainstream “map”.
Enron, named by Fortune magazine as “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six years in a row prior to the scandal, kept massive debts off of their balance sheets, which resulted in shareholders losing $74 billion – yes, with a b – thousands of investors and employees losing their pensions, and many employees ultimately losing their jobs.
WorldCom, Tyco, HealthSouth, Freddie Mac, AIG insurance, Lehman Brothers, and Bernie Madoff are just a few of the notorious players in corporate fraud scandals we’ve seen in the past 20 years. More recently, Volkswagen, Toshiba, and FIFA have also all been accused of fraud for a variety of reasons.
Because corporate fraud cases tend to fascinate the public and make the local and national news, a criminal defense attorney experienced with getting in front of the media’s often biased coverage is paramount to successfully defending these charges. Fraud and other white collar crimes are usually complex and extremely detailed, and for this reason, you will need to secure a lawyer who understands both federal and Florida law when it comes to fraud and related crimes.
What Is Corporate Fraud?
In the most general sense, fraud occurs when someone intentionally deceives others for their own personal gain. “Corporate fraud” is an umbrella term for a wide variety of illegal and unethical practices that corporate officers and employees can make.
Corporate fraud cases can involve many different people and complicated schemes that aim to deceive the public, investors, auditors, investigators, and others. While anyone within an organization can commit a corporate fraud crime, they are typically committed by executives, managers, officers, or others in a position of authority within the organization.
An example of corporate fraud might involve using an accounting scheme to hide a company’s actual amount of debt, as in the case of Enron. Why would a corporation do this? So they can appear to be in a better financial position than they actually are. And then those involved in the fraud can benefit from this deception.
The FBI tends to focus on corporate fraud cases that include:
- Falsifying or misrepresenting accounting entries and/or financial condition
- Fraudulent trades to inflate profits or hide losses
- Illicit transactions to evade regulatory oversight
- Self-dealing by corporate insiders
- Insider trading – trading based on non-public information
- Misuse of corporate property for personal gain
- Obstruction of justice designed to hide any of the previously mentioned criminal behaviors
Corporate fraud crimes are often felonies and are punishable by fines up to $250,000 for individuals and in the millions for groups, 5 to 10 years in prison per charge, restitution, asset forfeiture, loss of license, and damage to your reputation.
Defending Corporate Fraud Charges
Because corporate fraud charges are often centered on lengthy investigations, it’s important to begin your defense as soon as you learn you are being investigated or are arrested.
And since government agencies will stop at nothing to get a conviction and make an example out of an alleged corporate fraud perpetrator, you need to do the same in hopes of getting your charges reduced, dismissed, or dropped. With that in mind, it is important to follow these initial steps in order to help your attorney craft the best possible defense.
Remain silent. Even though you are given this right when you are arrested, many people don’t exercise it. While someone should always exercise this right until a lawyer is present, it is especially important in these types of cases.
If you speak to anyone – police officers, government agents, or even your spouse – anything you say can be used to convict you. And if you are found lying, you might face another charge on top of what you are already facing.
Be truthful with your lawyer. We’ve seen movies and television shows where clients are less than truthful with their lawyers, but for fraud and white collar cases, your lawyer needs to know the whole story in order to properly and aggressively defend you.
Many of these cases come down to intent and knowledge of your actions. The prosecution has to prove that you committed the alleged crime with “specific intent to defraud.” Without that element, the prosecution will be unable to convict. So tell your lawyer the details of what happened to help your case and defense.
Facing criminal charges can be a frightening and overwhelming time. But don’t let those feelings paralyze you. Make the decision to contact a qualified lawyer who will help you fight your charges so you can get your life back on track.
About the Author:
Attorney David W. Olson is the founder of the Law Offices of David W. Olson in West Palm Beach. He has been practicing criminal law and successfully representing clients throughout the State of Florida for over 30 years. Throughout his legal career, Mr. Olson has been honored numerous times for both his dedication and excellence in criminal law. He proudly holds the Martindale-Hubbell AV Rating, as well as being recognized as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013), in the Nation’s Top One Percent of attorneys (2015), and as a 10 Best Member of the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys (2015). He has even received commendations from members of congress and other public officials for the fantastic work that he’s done. Mr. Olson graduated from the University of Florida’s Fredric G. Levin College of Law in 1981 and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1983.