Articles Posted in U.S. Supreme Court

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Shaw used identifying numbers of Hsu's bank account in a scheme to transfer funds from that account to accounts at other institutions from which Shaw was able to obtain Hsu’s funds. Shaw was convicted under 18 U.S.C. 1344(1), which makes it a crime to “knowingly execut[e] a scheme . . . to defraud a financial institution.” The Ninth Circuit affirmed. A unanimous Supreme Court vacated and remanded for consideration of whether the district court improperly instructed the jury that a scheme to defraud a bank must be one to deceive the bank or deprive it of something of value, instead of one to deceive and deprive. The Court rejected Shaw’s other arguments. Subsection (1) of the statute covers schemes to deprive a bank of money in a customer’s account. The bank had property rights in Hsu’s deposits as a source of loans from which to earn profits or as a bailee. The statute requires neither a showing that the bank suffered ultimate financial loss nor a showing that the defendant intended to cause such loss. Shaw knew that the bank possessed Hsu’s account, Shaw made false statements to the bank, Shaw believed that those false statements would lead the bank to release from that account funds that ultimately, wrongfully ended up with Shaw. Shaw knew that he was entering into a scheme to defraud the bank even if he was not familiar with bank-related property law. Subsection (2), which criminalizes the use of “false or fraudulent pretenses” to obtain “property . . . under the custody or control of” a bank, does not exclude Shaw’s conduct from subsection (1). View "Shaw v. United States" on Justia Law

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The bank fraud statute, 18 U.S.C. 1344(2), makes it a crime to “knowingly execut[e] a scheme ... to obtain” property owned by, or under the custody of, a bank “by means of false or fraudulent pretenses.” Loughrin was charged with bank fraud after he was caught forging stolen checks, using them to buy goods at a Target store, and then returning the goods for cash. The district court declined to give Loughrin’s proposed jury instruction that section 1344(2) required proof of “intent to defraud a financial institution.” A jury convicted Loughrin. The Tenth Circuit and Supreme Court affirmed. Section 1344(2) does not require proof that a defendant intended to defraud a financial institution, but requires only that a defendant intended to obtain bank property and that this was accomplished “by means of” a false statement. Imposing Loughrin’s proposed requirement would prevent the law from applying to cases falling within the statute’s clear terms, such as frauds directed against a third-party custodian of bank-owned property. The Court rejected Loughrin’s argument that without an element of intent to defraud a bank, section 1344(2) would apply to every minor fraud in which the victim happens to pay by check, stating that the statutory language limits application to cases in which the misrepresentation has some real connection to a federally insured bank, and thus to the pertinent federal interest. View "Loughrin v. United States" on Justia Law

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After the Republic of Argentina defaulted on its external debt, NML, one of its bondholders, prevailed in 11 debt-collection actions filed against Argentina in New York. To execute its judgments, NML sought discovery of Argentina’s property, serving subpoenas on nonparty banks for records relating to global financial transactions. The district court granted motions to compel compliance. The Second Circuit affirmed, rejecting Argentina’s argument that the order transgressed the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1330, 1602. The Supreme Court affirmed; the FSIA does not immunize a foreign-sovereign judgment debtor from post-judgment discovery of information concerning its extraterritorial assets. The FSIA replaced factor-intensive loosely-common-law-based immunity with “a comprehensive framework for resolving any claim of sovereign immunity” so that any sort of immunity defense made by a foreign sovereign in a U.S. court must stand or fall on its text. The FSIA established jurisdictional immunity, section 1604, which was waived here. FSIA execution immunity under sections 1609, 1610, 1611, generally shields “property in the United States of a foreign state” from attachment, arrest, and execution. Nothing forbids or limits discovery in aid of execution of a foreign-sovereign judgment debtor’s assets. Even if Argentina is correct that section 1609 execution immunity implies coextensive discovery-¬in-aid-of-execution immunity, there would be no protection from discovery a foreign sovereign’s extraterritorial assets. Section 1609 immunizes only foreign-state property “in the United States.” The prospect that NML’s general request for information about Argentina’s worldwide assets may turn up information about property that Argentina regards as immune does not mean that NML cannot pursue its discovery. View "Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital, Ltd." on Justia Law

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Robers, convicted of submitting fraudulent mortgage loan applications to two banks, argued that the district court miscalculated his restitution obligation under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C. 3663A–3664, which requires property crime offenders to pay “an amount equal to ... the value of the property” less “the value (as of the date the property is returned) of any part of the property that is returned.” The court ordered Robers to pay the difference between the amount lent to him and the amount the banks received in selling houses that had served as collateral. Robers argued that the court should have reduced the restitution amount by the value of the houses on the date on which the banks took title to them since that was when “part of the property” was “returned.” The Seventh Circuit and a unanimous Supreme Court affirmed. “Any part of the property ... returned” refers to the property the banks lost: the money lent to Robers, not to the collateral the banks received. Because valuing money is easier than valuing other property, this “natural reading” facilitates the statute’s administration. For purposes of the statute’s proximate-cause requirement, normal market fluctuations do not break the causal chain between the fraud and losses incurred by the victim. Even assuming that the return of collateral compensates lenders for their losses under state mortgage law, the issue here is whether the statutory provision, which does not purport to track state mortgage law, requires that collateral received be valued at the time the victim received it. The rule of lenity does not apply here. View "Robers v. United States" on Justia Law

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To safeguard investors and restore trust in financial markets after the Enron collapse, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which provides that no public company nor any contractor or subcontractor of such a company, may discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, or discriminate against an employee in the terms and conditions of employment because of whistleblowing activity, 18 U. S. C. 1514A(a). Plaintiffs are former employees of FMR, private companies that contract to advise or manage mutual funds. As is common in the industry, those mutual funds are public companies with no employees. Plaintiffs allege that they blew the whistle on putative fraud relating to the mutual funds and suffered retaliation by FMR. FMR argued that the Act protects only employees of public companies, and not employees of private companies that contract with public companies. The district court denied FMR’s motion to dismiss. The First Circuit reversed, concluding that the term “an employee” refers only to employees of public companies. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, concluding that section 1514A’s whistleblower protection includes employees of a public company’s private contractors and subcontractors. FMR’s interpretation would shrink the protection against retaliation by contractors to insignificance. The Court stated that its reading fits the goal of warding off another Enron debacle; fear of retaliation was the primary deterrent to reporting by the employees of Enron’s contractors. FMR’s reading would insulate the entire mutual fund industry from section 1514A. Virtually all mutual funds are structured to have no employees of their own and are managed, instead, by independent investment advisors. View "Lawson v. FMR LLC" on Justia Law

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Debtors obtained a secured loan from an investment fund, for which the Bank served as trustee. Debtors ultimately became insolvent, seeking relief under 11 U.S.C. 1129(b)(2)(A), where debtors sought to confirm a "cramdown" bankruptcy plan over the Bank's objection. The Bankruptcy Court denied debtors' request, concluding that the auction procedures did not comply with section 1129(b)(2)(A)'s requirements for cramdown plans and the Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Court held that debtors could not obtain confirmation of a Chapter 11 cramdown plan that provided for the sale of collateral free and clear of the Bank's lien, but did not permit the Bank to credit-bid at the sale. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals. View "RadLAX Gateway Hotel, LLC v. Amalgamated Bank" on Justia Law