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CHICAGO � The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York filed criminal charges against a Mayer Brown attorney for his role in the alleged financial fraud at the former broker Refco Group Ltd. The Securities and Exchange Commission also sued the same lawyer for allegedly aiding and abetting in securities fraud violations. U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia announced the indictment of Mayer Brown’s Joseph P. Collins for conspiring with Refco officials, including former Chief Executive Officer Phillip Bennett, to commit securities fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering. The indictment, which includes 11 counts, also alleges that Collins conspired in material misstatements to auditors and false filings with the SEC. The SEC filed a civil injunctive action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against Collins, alleging that he assisted Refco, the now defunct financial services and commodities broker, in failing to disclose hundreds of millions of dollars in related party debt and transactions, the agency said in release. Such frauds are often only possible with the help of an attorney, said Linda Chatman Thomsen, director of the SEC’s division of enforcement. “The commission relies on these professionals to act as gatekeepers to our markets,” Thomsen said in the release. “We will aggressively pursue individuals who ignore their professional obligations and instead assist in their clients’ violation of the federal securities law.” Mayer Brown issued a short statement saying that Collins is on leave from the firm while the charges against him are pending and noting that the firm has cooperated with authorities investigating the activities related to the collapse of Refco. “Joe Collins is an innocent victim of the Refco fraud,” said William Schwartz, a Cooley Godward Kronish attorney representing Collins. “The United States Attorney’s indictment and the SEC’s complaint should send a chill down the spine of every transactional lawyer who believes he or she is representing an honest client. We intend to fight these charges to acquittal.” “Our review of the evidence available to us shows that the firm acted in a professional, competent and ethical manner in its work on behalf of Refco,” the firm said. Collins heads up the firm’s derivatives group, concentrating his practice on futures, securities and derivatives law in representing brokers, dealers, and investors out of the New York and Chicago offices, according to Mayer Brown’s Web site biography of Collins. He attended the New York University School of Law and graduated in 1975, according to the site.

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