It was a scene that many former Dewey & LeBoeuf partners, still bitter about the downfall of their once-formidable firm, had long hoped would one day play out: Dewey’s three former top executives being led into a courtroom handcuffed and charged with helping to orchestrate a massive fraud that helped bring on the largest law firm bankruptcy in U.S. history.
An arraignment Thursday afternoon in a downtown Manhattan courtroom capped a surreal day that saw former Dewey chairman Steven Davis; the firm’s former executive director, Stephen DiCarmine; and its former chief financial officer, Joel Sanders, charged by the Manhattan district attorney’s office with first-degree grand larceny, first-degree scheme to defraud, securities fraud, first-degree falsifying of business records and conspiracy in the fifth degree.
Also filing into the courtroom Thursday was Zachary Warren, a 29-year-old former client relations manager at Dewey who is charged in two indictments related to the alleged fraud at the firm.
The four defendants followed one another in a grim procession down the center of the courtroom precisely at 3 p.m., passing through a red velvet cordon to a single wooden table as their lawyers crouched behind them, whispering in their ears. Davis, hair thinning, blinked constantly and leaned forward in his chair in an attempt to be heard when questioned by New York State Supreme Court Justice Robert Stolz. DiCarmine, sporting his signature deep dark tan, surveyed the scene, while Sanders and Warren stared straight ahead, expressionless. None of the four looked at or talked to one other during the course of the proceedings.
Assistant District Attorney Peirce Moser noted the seriousness of the charges in discussing why bail for the three lead defendants had been set at $2 million apiece (Warren’s bail is set at $200,000). “The evidence that we have collected reveals a shocking mix of greed and hubris,” Moser said.
Moser explained in brief how Warren “helped launch the scheme and helped cover up the fraud” when he worked at the firm in 2008 and 2009. After Warren’s departure, Moser said, the other three defendants “kept it going for the life of Dewey & LeBoeuf until it collapsed.”
To underscore the degree of greed allegedly at work, Moser said Warren had earned $100,000 in annual salary in 2008, in addition to receiving a $75,000 bonus in 2008 and a $40,000 bonus for the half a year he worked in 2009—at a time when the firm was laying off staff and cutting salaries. DiCarmine and Sanders each took home more than $2 million per year, along with perks including a letter of credit backing their salaries and loans taken out by the firm for their personal use.
If convicted, the three former Dewey leaders face a sentence of between one year and 25 years in state prison. Davis and DiCarmine, both registered to practice law in New York, would also lose their law license.
Sanders and DiCarmine, who reside in Florida, and Warren, who lives in Tennessee, handed over their passports and agreed not to leave the country. Davis, who lives in London with his spouse, is allowed to return home but is under a strict order to only travel between the United Kingdom and the United States, and may not land in any other country even for a layover. According to his lawyer, Elkan Abramowitz, Davis resigned from his job as top in-house counsel to the government of Ras al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates last week. Word that he had landed the job first emerged on New Year’s Eve.
According to Bryan Cave partner Austin Campriello, who is serving as criminal defense counsel to DiCarmine, his client learned of the pending indictment late Friday afternoon and first saw the indictment early Thursday morning.
DiCarmine arrived outside the entrance to the Manhattan district attorney’s office at 7:30 a.m. Thursday, Campriello said, and voluntarily turned himself in at a prearranged time a half hour later. Since leaving Dewey in 2012, DiCarmine had been taking fashion classes at Parsons The New School for Design but recently went on leave. “His passion is fashion,” Campriello quipped as a crowd of journalists, lawyers and family members of the defendants waited for the arraignment to begin.
Sanders, meanwhile, became a finance executive at Florida’s Greenspoon Marder. The firm issued a statement Thursday saying it is standing by him.
The four defendants have tapped some heavyweight veterans of New York’s white-collar defense bar for representation—all of whom insisted on their client’s innocence Thursday.
Campriello, for instance, is a former chief of the New York District Attorney’s racketeering bureau. His major defense-side representations include serving as cocounsel to former Tyco CEO L. Dennis Kozlowski in 2005.
Warren has tapped Michael Armstrong, the former Queens County District Attorney and a chief counsel to the Knapp Commission, which investigated police corruption in the city in 1970.
Davis is relying on Abramowitz, a name partner at Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello. A former chief of the criminal division in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office and onetime New York City assistant deputy mayor, Abramowitz has represented many high-profile clients, including filmmaker Woody Allen in his bitter custody battle with actress Mia Farrow.
Sanders, meanwhile, has retained Edward Little, the chair of Hughes Hubbard & Reed’s white-collar group. Little’s recent clients have included Bear Stearns fund manager Ralph Cioffi, for whom he won an acquittal at trial in 2008, and Julien Grout, a trader targeted last year in connection with an investigation by U.K. and U.S. authorities into the so-called London Whale trading debacle.
In setting the first hearing date in the case for April 21, Stolz predicted that it would not be dispensed with quickly. “This case is going, I suspect, to take a long time,” he said.
As the proceedings came to a close, each of the defendants raised his hands to be freed from metal handcuffs before relaxing back into a wooden chair. Soon, the mood in the courtroom lightened as the four men began to circulate while waiting for court employees to process their bail papers.
DiCarmine approached Davis’ ex-wife, Loretta Davis, and gave her a hug, then stopped to embrace his former lawyer, Hughes Hubbard & Reed partner Ned Bassen, and chatted with Sanders’ wife and daughter. Asked while snacking on an organic energy bar if he had indeed moved to Florida from New York as the judge indicated, DiCarmine did not answer the question directly but, pointing to his browned face, said, “I’m more tan than when I was living here.” (Sanders and his family also appeared well-tanned.)
Warren, separated from the rest, hugged his mother before sitting next to both of his parents, his father’s hand firmly on his shoulder.
Davis, who had spoken feebly while answering Stolz’s questions, began to relax and even cracked a smile as the paperwork phase dragged on. As pale as DiCarmine is tan, Davis appeared unwilling to answer a reporter’s questions, but did oblige a request to see the book tucked under his arm: “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides.
Before leaving the courtroom, DiCarmine wandered up to a reporter with a question straddling the line between concern and desire. Would there be video cameras waiting to film him when he left?
The answer, as he soon learned for himself, was yes.
New York Law Journal reporter Christine Simmons contributed to this report.