In a first impression decision overturning criminal convictions of four former Wilmington Trust executives this week, a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that prosecutors’ path to proving a statement false is a steep one.

The panel found the federal government’s regulations for reporting past-due loans were too ambiguous for a single interpretation to prove the way the executives falsely reported the loans a decade ago. The court’s conclusions could sweep into other areas of the law and a number of other regulated industries.

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