Will Two Former Credit Suisse Group AG Brokers Convicted of Securities Fraud Get More Lenient Sentences Because of Industry’s “Culture of Corruption?”

A federal judge says that when sentencing former Credit Suisse Group AG brokers Eric Butler and Julian Tzolov, he will consider the fact that they committed their securities fraud crimes while working in the securities industry’s “culture of corruption.” He also asked defense and government attorneys to touch upon this issue when they submit their sentencing recommendations.

Earlier this week, a jury found Butler found guilty of conspiracy and securities fraud for his involvement in an alleged scheme to mislead investors about auction-rate securities so that higher commissions could be generated. Butler faces a maximum 45 years in prison.
According to the government, Butler and Tzolov changed securities’ names on communications with investors so that clients wouldn’t find out that federally guaranteed student loans were not backing their investments. Instead, they put the funds in riskier products that were connected to ARS. Investors lost close to $1 billion when the ARS market collapsed.

Butler’s attorney, however, says the failed market, not his client, is at fault for the investors’ losses. Butler plans to appeal the verdict.

Tzolov was arrested last month in Spain. He was under house arrest in New York City in May but fled the country. Tzolov pleaded guilty to securities fraud, conspiracy, visa fraud, wire fraud, and bail-jumping charges. Tzolov then testified for prosecutors in the criminal case against Butler.

While commenting on these recent developments, Ann Woolner, on Bloomberg.com, noted that just because federal regulators weren’t paying attention to misconduct on Wall Street doesn’t make it okay for brokers to lie to their clients-it just makes it easier for them to not get caught. She also commented that while people don’t die from white collar crimes, securities fraud can cause a great deal of suffering for investors who were robbed.

While the two former Credit Suisse brokers shouldn’t be punished because of the shortcomings within the securities industry, the “culture of corruption” argument shouldn’t be the reason to shorten their prison sentences. Just because everyone’s doing it doesn’t make it okay.

Related Web Resources:
Wall Street ‘Corruption’ Might Buy Crook a Break: Ann Woolner, Bloomberg.com, August 21, 2009
Broker Convicted in Auction-Rate Case, Wall Street Journal, August 19, 2009
Former Wall Street broker pleads guilty to fraud, MSNBC, July 22, 2009
Our securities fraud law firm represents clients throughout the US who were left with frozen auction-rate securities when the ARS market collapsed because brokerage firms and/or their brokers misrepresented the securities to them.