A federal judge in Los Angeles found former Nixon Peabody securities partner David Tamman guilty Tuesday of 10 criminal counts connected to his participation in a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors, primarily members of Los Angeles’s Iranian-Jewish community, out of as much as $20 million.
U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez’s decision capped a seven-day bench trial during which prosecutors laid out the evidence they said supported the charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, alteration of records, and accessory to mail fraud and securities violations handed up against Tamman by a federal grand jury last December.
Tamman—who worked at Nixon Peabody from February 2007 until October 2009, when the firm fired him amid a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the activities of one of his clients, Beverly Hills–based New Point Financial Services Inc.—is to be sentenced on February 11, according to Aaron May, the assistant U.S. attorney in the Central District of California who served as the lead prosecutor on the case. While he faces a maximum prison term of 190 years, May says he expects the actual sentence to be lighter than that. Neither Tamman nor his lawyer, Stanley Stone of Encino, California, could be reached for comment Tuesday.
In a statement, Nixon Peabody spokeswoman Allison McClain said the firm is glad the matter is resolved and that Tamman is "solely responsible for the actions that led to today’s guilty verdict. He betrayed our trust, and failed to live up to the ethical standards our firm demands." She added that Nixon Peabody has fully cooperated with the government’s investigation and prosecution.
Tamman’s conviction comes roughly five months after his fellow defendant, New Point founder John Farahi, pled guilty to four of the 41 criminal counts he faced as a result of the same December 2011 federal indictment.
Farahi—who was charged with committing, among other things, mail fraud, offering unregistered securities for sale, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice—pled guilty June 7 to one count each of mail fraud, loan fraud, illegal sale of securities, and conspiring to obstruct justice, according to sibling publication The National Law Journal. Farahi faces up to 75 years in federal prison, five years of supervised release, and a fine of $1.75 million when he is sentenced on December 17, though under his plea deal prosecutors have said they will not seek to have him imprisoned for more than 10 years, according to NLJ. Farahi has also been ordered to pay restitution to New Point victims, whom he insists were only taken for $7 million, not the $20 prosecutors claim.
According to prosecutors, New Point promised investors—whom Farahi recruited through a daily Farsi-language radio show—that their money would be used to buy low-risk corporate bonds backed by the federal bank bailout initiative known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program. In reality, Farahi used the money to further his Ponzi scheme, engage in high-risk and speculative future options trading, and support a lavish lifestyle that included a Beverly Hills home and a yacht.
Tamman served as New Point’s corporate securities counsel during his time at Nixon Peabody, as well as during a stint with his previous firm, Liner Grode Stein Yankelevitz Sunshine Regenstreif & Taylor, according to court filings. After leaving Nixon Peabody, Tamman joined Greenberg Traurig, only to be terminated in January 2011 once that firm learned of his alleged wrongdoing through an SEC administrative proceeding targeting him.
“As NewPoint’s lawyer, Tamman helped John Farahi violate the most basic investor protection law—that you tell investors the truth,” Christy Romero, the special inspector general for TARP, said in a U.S. Department of Justice press release announcing the conviction. Added Michele Layne, director of the SEC’s Los Angeles regional office, in the release: “This verdict demonstrates that there are severe consequences when an attorney crosses the line between vigorous representation of a client and obstruction of an SEC investigation."
Since leaving Greenberg, Tamman has worked as a solo practitioner, according to California state bar records. (The SEC sued New Point and Farahi in 2010 in a case that remains unresolved. The criminal case against Tamman included charges that he interfered with the SEC probe by altering and backdating documents, removing documents, and lying to the agency personnel in sworn testimony).
Unlike Farahi, Tamman pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges January 17. In February, Tamman’s counsel unsuccessfully sought to expedite his trial, which was originally scheduled to begin in March but delayed until October. Stone argued at the time that the criminal case was making it difficult for Tamman to earn a living and that he wanted "the opportunity to clear his name," according to the NLJ.
Tamman sued Nixon Peabody in California state court in October 2011, claiming he was "thrown under the bus" by the firm in its bid to distance itself from the SEC probe despite the fact that other Nixon Peabody lawyers had worked on New Point matters. Tamman also claims in the suit, which was stayed in June pending the outcome of the criminal case, that the firm took most of his $1.5 million book of business out from under him.
In May 2010, a receiver for New Point also sued Nixon Peabody, claiming the firm aided in the fraud. That suit, brought in federal court in Los Angeles, got a green light to proceed in September over Nixon Peabody’s objections that the receiver, James Donell, did not have authority to bring the suit, Reuters reported.