Firm’s Historic Collapse Left Thousands Unemployed, Creditors Owed Hundreds of Millions
DA Vance: Fraud Is Not an Acceptable Accounting Practice
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the indictments of STEVEN DAVIS, 60, STEPHEN DICARMINE, 57, JOEL SANDERS, 55, and ZACHARY WARREN, 29. The first three defendants were, respectively, the Chairman, the Executive Director, and the Chief Financial Officer at the now-bankrupt law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP; the fourth defendant was a Client Relations Manager at the firm. The indictment alleges that the defendants defrauded and stole from the firm’s lenders, investors, and others. This case is the result of a nearly two-year investigation by the DA’s Major Economic Crimes Bureau and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Securities and Exchange Commission conducted its own parallel investigation, and also is bringing charges today.
DAVIS, DICARMINE, and SANDERS are charged with Grand Larceny in the First Degree, Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, Martin Act Securities Fraud, Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, and Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree. WARREN is charged in two indictments with Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, and Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree.
“Fraud is not an acceptable accounting practice,” said District Attorney Vance. “The defendants are accused of concocting and overseeing a massive effort to cook the books at Dewey & LeBoeuf. Their wrongdoing contributed to the collapse of a prestigious international law firm, which forced thousands of people out of jobs and left creditors holding the bag on hundreds of millions of dollars owed to them. Those at the top of the firm directed employees to hide the firm’s true financial condition from creditors, investors, auditors, and even partners of the firm, until the scheme unraveled and resulted in the largest law firm bankruptcy in history. Seven of the firm’s employees have already pled guilty to crimes related to their roles in the scheme. My Office’s Major Economic Crimes Bureau will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to prosecute accounting fraud and other economic crimes – regardless of the target company’s size or status.”
FBI Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos said: “As alleged, rather than speaking openly with creditors about mounting debt and shrinking revenue, the defendants deliberately manipulated the firm’s financial statements. In the height of the crisis, the defendants used every trick in the book in an elaborate attempt to cover-up the increasingly dire situation. But as bad went to worse, the defendants doubled down, and continued to exaggerate, manipulate, and downright lie in a vain attempt to right a sinking ship. It is incumbent on people and the institutions where they work to do the right thing, to follow the law, and not just when the FBI is watching.”
SEC Division of Enforcement Director Andrew J. Ceresney said: “Investors were led to believe they were purchasing bonds issued by a prestigious law firm that had weathered the financial crisis and was poised for growth. Dewey & LeBoeuf’s senior-most finance personnel used a grab bag of accounting gimmicks to create that illusion, and top executives green-lighted the decision to sell $150 million in bonds to investors as a desperate grasp for cash on the basis of blatantly falsified financial results.”
Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP (“Dewey”), an international law firm headquartered in New York City, was formed in October 2007 through the combination of Dewey Ballantine LLP and LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP. At its height, approximately 1,300 partners and employees worked in Dewey’s Manhattan office, and nearly 3,000 partners and employees worked for the firm worldwide. In May 2012, Dewey collapsed, resulting in the largest law firm bankruptcy in history.
From Dewey’s formation through its bankruptcy, DAVIS was the firm’s Chairman and later member of the Office of the Chair; SANDERS was the firm’s Chief Financial Officer; and DICARMINE was the firm’s Executive Director. WARREN was the firm’s Client Relations Manager in 2008 and 2009, when he left the firm.
From Dewey’s formation to early 2010, the firm had both term and revolving debt. By the end of 2008, Dewey had more than $100 million in term debt outstanding and available lines of credit of more than $130 million. In April 2010, Dewey refinanced its debt with a $150 million private placement with 13 insurance companies and a $100 million revolving line of credit with a syndicate of banks.
Overview of the Fraudulent Scheme
Dewey’s various credit agreements with financial institutions, and later the note purchase agreement governing the private placement, contained a cash flow covenant (the “Cash Flow Covenant”) that required the firm to maintain a minimum year-end cash flow. Because of its poor financial performance, Dewey was unable to meet this covenant in 2008. The
Defendants and others at the firm feared that the failure to meet the Cash Flow Covenant during the 2008 credit crisis could be harmful to Dewey.
According to the indictment and other documents filed in court, from approximately November 3, 2008, to approximately March 7, 2012, the Defendants engaged in a scheme to defraud the firm’s lenders, and later investors, by, among other things, falsely reporting compliance with the Cash Flow Covenant in 2008 and falsely reporting compliance with the Cash Flow Covenant and other covenants in future years. To conceal and advance their fraudulent scheme, the Defendants, directly and through others, lied to, withheld information from, and otherwise misled the firm’s auditors and partners, including members of the firm’s Executive Committee. DAVIS, DICARMINE, and SANDERS are also alleged to have stolen nearly $200 million from 13 insurance companies and 2 financial institutions.
To make it appear that Dewey had complied with its covenant requirements, DAVIS, DICARMINE, and SANDERS caused others at the firm to make tens of millions of dollars of fraudulent accounting entries beginning in late 2008. This conduct continued into 2012. WARREN helped plan the fraudulent entries and took part in covering them up while he was at the firm.
In addition, at the direction of DAVIS, DICARMINE, and SANDERS, individuals at the firm made intentional misrepresentations to investors and financial institutions involved in Dewey’s 2010 refinance. Among other things, they provided these investors and financial institutions with intentionally falsified financial statements, falsely represented that Dewey had complied with its prior debt covenants, and lied about Dewey’s policies for returning capital, its total outstanding debt, the compensation owed to partners, and about certain payments owed to retired partners.
The Fraudulent Methods
The indictment alleges that near the end of 2008, SANDERS, WARREN, and an individual working under SANDERS’ direction, identified fraudulent adjustments that could be made to Dewey’s accounting records falsely to demonstrate compliance with the Cash Flow Covenant. These adjustments were memorialized in a document named the “Master Plan.” These fraudulent adjustments, as well as others, were employed from year-end 2008 to 2012 to make it appear that Dewey had either increased revenue, decreased expenses, or limited distributions to partners.
Some of the fraudulent adjustments and acts included the following, as described in the indictment:
In addition to these and other adjustments, and as part of the scheme, individuals at Dewey intentionally failed to write off amounts that they knew should have been written off. For example, in 2011 a Dewey lawyer notified SANDERS and DICARMINE that the firm had failed to write off millions of dollars in receivables on a client that was in receivership. The lawyer notified SANDERS and DICARMINE that Dewey had represented to a federal district court judge that these amounts had been written off. Maintaining these invalid receivables, however, helped support Dewey’s borrowing base on its debt and the private placement. SANDERS wrote to two employees, “We need to hide this [without] actually writing it off.”
The Cash Flow Covenant Misstatements
According to court documents, in February 2009, Dewey reported to its lenders that it had satisfied its Cash Flow Covenant at year-end 2008 by a little more than $4 million. In fact, Dewey was able to achieve this result only by making tens of millions of dollars worth of fraudulent accounting entries, including, among others, some of those described above.
Dewey’s fortunes did not improve in future years. To misrepresent compliance with the Cash Flow Covenant and other covenants, individuals at the firm, at the direction of DAVIS, DICARMINE, and SANDERS, continued to make fraudulent accounting entries like those described above, as well as other fraudulent entries.
In fact, Dewey’s financial condition was so poor in 2009 that DAVIS, DICARMINE, and SANDERS realized that, despite planning millions of dollars in fraudulent adjustments for that year, they would be unable to come up with enough fraudulent adjustments by year-end to show compliance with the Cash Flow Covenant. As a result, SANDERS sought a waiver of the covenant from the banks. The Cash Flow Covenant floor was reduced, but the banks placed additional conditions on Dewey, which caused additional financial pressure.
When Dewey was unable to meet even the reduced Cash Flow Covenant level in 2009, individuals at the firm, under the direction of DAVIS, DICARMINE, and SANDERS, again made fraudulent adjustments to Dewey’s accounting records falsely to show compliance with this and another covenant. In 2010 and 2011, they continued making additional fraudulent adjustments falsely to show compliance with covenants, to reduce the impact of a covenant breach, and to hide Dewey’s true financial condition.
The April 2010 Private Placement and Revolving Line of Credit
In April 2010, Dewey refinanced its debt with a $150 million private placement of securities with insurance companies and a $100 million revolving line of credit with banks. To obtain this financing, individuals at the firm, including DAVIS, DICARMINE, SANDERS, and others acting at their direction misrepresented Dewey’s financial condition to potential investors and lenders. Among other things, they provided potential investors and lenders with financial statements that falsely represented that the firm had complied with its covenants.
Additionally, as part of the private placement process, individuals at Dewey provided potential investors with an offering memorandum that contained numerous misstatements, including:
Assistant District Attorneys Peirce R. Moser and Steve Pilnyak are handling the prosecution of this case, under the supervision of Assistant District Christopher Conroy, Principal Deputy Chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau; Assistant District Attorney Polly Greenberg, Chief of the Major Economic Crimes Bureau; Executive Assistant District Attorney David M. Szuchman, Chief of the Investigation Division; and former Chief Assistant District Attorney Daniel R. Alonso. They were assisted by Law Fellow Katherine Gora, Investigative Analysts Elizabeth Daniels and Bonita Robinson, Trial Preparation Assistants Michal Gallinari and Samantha Hall, and Investigator Gregory Dunlavey.
District Attorney Vance thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their assistance in the investigation, particularly Special Agent Sylvia Hilgeman.
STEVEN DAVIS, D.O.B. 5/17/1953
STEPHEN DICARMINE, D.O.B. 10/19/1956
JOEL SANDERS, D.O.B. 3/10/1958
ZACHARY WARREN, D.O.B. 10/05/1984