To assist him on the Madoff matter, Sorkin has enlisted three members of the 15-lawyer securities enforcement and white-collar defense group of Dickstein Shapiro, which he co-heads.
The team includes partners Daniel J. Horowitz, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan, and Mauro M. Wolfe, who was an assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey and previously worked for the SEC in Philadelphia. Associate Nicole P. De Bello rounds out the group.
Among the matters Sorkin is handling for Madoff is the Southern District criminal case and a civil action filed by the SEC. The lawyers also are responsible for representing Madoff’s interests in connection with the bankruptcy of his securities firm.
The next court date in Madoff’s case is March 13 when the government faces a deadline for filing an indictment against him. Prosecutors have twice asked for a 30-day extension of the deadline, citing the need for “additional discussions regarding a possible disposition.”
Sorkin also represents Ruth Madoff. Massachusetts securities regulators reported last week that in the days before the scandal broke, Ms. Madoff had withdrawn $15.5 million from an account she had in a brokerage firm in which Mr. Madoff holds a minority stake, including $10 million the day before her husband was arrested.
Sorkin had no comment on the Massachusetts report.
As sprawling as the Madoff case has become, Sorkin has other significant matters on his plate. He said he is representing 15 clients who are the subject of either SEC or criminal investigations. And he is preparing for trial in a matter before Southern District Judge P. Kevin Castel. The case, which involves an SEC civil enforcement proceeding, will test a new rule regulating the issuance of new securities to cover short positions.
Sorkin spent close to 11 years at the SEC and at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District. During his two years at the helm in New York, the SEC developed the so-called Yuppie Five case, which involved the prosecution of an associate who had been at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
“This points out that young professionals want to make it quickly, they’re not willing to wait,” Sorkin said to The New York Times in 1986. “They want the rewards sooner, and they don’t want to make the effort. Greed knows no bounds. There’s always someone who makes more than you do. Investment banking is the new gold mine.”
The office’s investigations also led to criminal prosecutions against E.F. Hutton & Co. and Kidder Peabody & Co., as well as a civil enforcement action against Robert Brennan, the head of First Jersey Securities.
Sorkin said he tried cases more frequently as a prosecutor than he has in his 28 years in private practice.
He recalled trying 15 cases in his first 11 months at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. By contrast, he has tried six cases during his last eight years in private practice.
Discussing the decision on whether to go to trial, Sorkin quoted famed Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes, who explained his heavy reliance on a running game as stemming from the fact that two of three possible outcomes for passes — an incompletion or an interception — are detrimental.
Likewise, Sorkin said, with sentencing guidelines in effect, a plea is likely to result in less jail time than going to trial and getting convicted, but the choice is ultimately up to the client.
‘A LARGE PERSONALITY’
A wide-range of Sorkin’s peers in the white-collar and securities bars described him as an outsized personality who is effective because he is so likeable.
Sorkin is “very gregarious and good natured,” which serves him well in dealings with prosecutors and regulators as well as juries, said Robert G. Morvillo, of Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Silberberg.
But he also has “the residual toughness necessary in a criminal defense lawyer,” added Morvillo.
“After two tours of duty at the SEC, one at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, a stint as in-house counsel and years in private practice, Sorkin brings all different perspectives to the table,” said David M. Brodsky, who has known Sorkin since the two worked together as Southern District prosecutors.
Brodsky, of Latham & Watkins, agreed that Sorkin has a “very large personality — he doesn’t just greet you with a handshake, but a hug.”
John R. Wing, a partner at Lankler Siffert & Wohl, described Sorkin as “one of the busiest lawyers in town” who was one of the “two top lawyers in New York” that clients look to when they have SEC matters. Wing represents Madoff’s brother, Peter, who has not been charged.
Among the cases Sorkin has tried in recent years was his defense of a former banker at Merrill Lynch & Co. accused of participating in an Enron related fraud. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2007 reversed the conviction of Sorkin’s client as well as those of three co-defendants.
This past fall, Sorkin took a case to trial that was outside his usual repertoire. It involved an arms broker who was convicted in November of trying to sell millions of dollars in weaponry to revolutionaries in Colombia.
Sorkin declined to explain how he got the case other than to say “it came into the office.”
The client, Monzer al-Kassar, was convicted but plans to appeal.
Sorkin said that some of his most important victories were cases in which he persuaded prosecutors or regulators not to press public charges. He declined to elaborate other than to say the cases involved “a number of high-ranking individuals in corporate America.”
One of the cases Sorkin was able to resolve by negotiating a settlement with the SEC had a tie to Madoff.
The case involved an accountant, Frank Avellino, and his partner, who raised $441 million from 3,200 clients which they placed with Madoff on a promise that their clients would receive a return of between 13.5 percent and 20 percent a year, according to a New York Times report.
Sorkin negotiated a deal with the SEC that required Avellino to shut down his firm, return the funds to his investors and pay a $350,000 fine. Once the settlement was reached, the Times reported, the SEC inquiry “petered out.”
Madoff was not sued by the SEC in that case.
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