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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Did Misguided Career Ambition Drive The Bear Stearns Case?

[This is an update of an earlier post about the two Bear Stearns fund managers who managed hedge funds invested heavily in subprime mortgage backed securities.] 

The prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York presented for the jury selected segments of e-mails which, when read in their entirety, raised doubt as to the government's case.   The jury took approximately nine hours to reach its verdict -- meaning this was a quick turnaround.   Post-trial comments from jurors (see this Bloomberg News report) indicate they understood the government made selective use of e-mails and did not portray a true picture of what happened.

This verdict may indicate that some government prosecutors did not "vet" this case properly, meaning that someone failed to properly assess the evidence and determine whether the defendants truly had the required "criminal intent."   This was a landmark prosecution, being the first to probe the subprime mortgage meltdown.  Perhaps someone had visions in his or her heads of the value of a guilty verdict in boosting one's career and paving an express lane to a lucrative law firm partnership offer.   Did career ambition play a role in this case having been brought in the first place? 

The role of prosecutors, whether they be state, local or federal, is to do "justice."  This roughly means a pursuit of the truth.   The prime directive is not to "win the case" and certainly not to do so "at any cost."   Hopefully this case did not involve an approach of "the ends justify the means."   The gamesmanship of using selected snippets of e-mails and other evidence, when the overall context seems "clear" (as it did to the jury) suggests that the pursuit

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