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March 23, 2009

"Disparities Seen in Federal Securities Fraud Sentences"

The title of this post is the title of this piece from last Friday's New York Law Journal by Steven Feldman discussing federal sentencing developments in a notable white-collar setting.  Here are snippets:

Greater uncertainty reigns now that the guidelines are advisory. Because anecdotal evidence indicates that district courts are now more frequently imposing sentences below the guidelines range, it falls to practitioners to look for patterns in what appears to be a fairly random imposition of below-guidelines sentences. Recognizing these patterns is critical because having a sense of a likely sentence plays an important role in the decision of whether to go to trial or plead guilty. Several trends appear in recent securities fraud cases:

• Defendants convicted after trial are more likely to receive sentences within the guidelines range.

• Defendants who plead guilty well before trial are more often receiving sentences below the guidelines range, meaning that they receive much greater "credit" for accepting responsibility than the three-level reduction provided by U.S.S.G. §3E1.1.

• The disparities between the sentences for those who go to trial and are convicted, and those who plead guilty to the same conduct, have increased.

• The X-factor is the judge. Because the assignment wheel is random, one cannot control what judge will be assigned to a case. But knowing the court and its tendencies helps in prognosticating what sentence awaits post-trial or post-plea.

March 23, 2009 at 10:45 PM | Permalink

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