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February 22, 2008

Brit bankers get American plea bargained justice in Enron-related sentencing

This new post at the WSJ Law Blog, titled "NatWest Three Get 37 Months Each," covers this interesting Friday afternoon sentencing story:

The curtains are closing on the corporate-law drama of the ages.  And three of its final players, we discovered this afternoon, are poised to exit the stage.  The NatWest three — the trio of British bankers who were extradited to the U.S. in mid-2006... — received their sentencing today. David Bermingham, Giles Darby and Gary Mulgrew will each serve 37 months.  Here’s the early AP report, and a report from the Houston Chronicle.

The Three — who were charged with colluding with ex-Enron CFO Andy Fastow and his lieutenant Michael Kopper to steal money from their former employer, Greenwich NatWest, now part of RBS — changed their plea from not-guilty to guilty back in November.   After claiming initially that they did not collude with Fastow, the Three signed a plea agreement, each pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud. 

According to reports, their sentences matched the recommendation of prosecutors, although federal sentencing guidelines recommended 41 months to 51 months.  They will also repay the $7.3 million they gained from the scheme.

At the Three’s request, Werlein is recommending they do their time at Allenwood, a federal prison complex in White Deer, Pa. They’ll reportedely serve six months to a year in U.S. prison before being transferred back to a British prison. (Fastow is serving a six-year term at Oakdale, in Louisiana, while Kopper is serving 37 months at Texarkana, in Northeast Texas.)

Obviously, the lawyers for the NatWest Three effectively schooled them on the reality that they are much better of cutting a deal that risking a trial to assert their claims of innocence.  Notable, the combinded plea-bargained sentences to be served by the NatWest Three and Enron's Fastow and Kopper together still add up to six years less in jail than Jeff Skilling got after his trial conviction.  As I have often said before, the extremely high trial penalty in the federal criminal justice system means that someone who is really guilty (like Fastow) knows that can and should quickly cut a deal so to be much better off than anyone else who might lose at trial after maintaining their innocence (unless they can get a commutation like Libby).

February 22, 2008 at 04:40 PM | Permalink


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You have to admit the system could not function properly without a trial penalty. Right?

Posted by: DAG | Feb 22, 2008 8:00:36 PM

Yeah, but does it have to be sooooo extreme?

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 23, 2008 9:18:34 AM

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