A legal odyssey for Joel Sanders that began in March 2014 could finally be coming to an end after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed papers on Dec. 28 indicating that it had reached a settlement with the ex-financial chief of now-defunct Dewey & LeBoeuf.
SEC senior trial counsel Howard Fischer, in a two-page letter to U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni of the Southern District of New York, wrote that the regulator has “reached a settlement” with Sanders and plans on submitting that agreement shortly for approval.
In September, Caproni had ordered the SEC and defense lawyers to update her on settlement talks by Dec. 1. Earlier this month, Fischer informed Caproni that both sides had made progress in their efforts to resolve the case, but he also asked the judge to set a hearing to discuss a timeline for discovery issues and other matters.
Fischer’s Dec. 28 letter to Caproni noted that “the parties were not able to reach a consensual resolution” with former Dewey & LeBoeuf executive director Stephen DiCarmine. As a result, the SEC plans to move forward on discovery with DiCarmine, while preparing to abandon any further proceedings against Sanders pending the finalization of a deal resolving the civil charges against him.
In October, Sanders avoided jail time after a New York state judge ordered him to pay a $1 million fine and perform 750 hours of community service following his criminal conviction in May on securities fraud and conspiracy charges. A jury cleared DiCarmine—represented in a retrial that began in February by Seward & Kissel government enforcement and internal investigations co-head Rita Glavin—of any wrongdoing.
A previous criminal trial ended with a mistrial in October 2015 after a deadlocked jury was unable to convict or exonerate the Dewey & LeBoeuf defendants, which at the time also included Steven Davis, a former chairman of the Am Law 100 firm that collapsed into bankruptcy in May 2012. In January 2016, Davis accepted a deferred prosecution deal offered by the New York County District Attorney’s Office and settled a parallel SEC suit filed against him, although the issue of monetary sanctions in that matter remains unresolved.
Akerman securities litigation chair Brian Miller and commercial disputes partner Scott Kessler, who have represented Sanders in the SEC case, did not return requests for comment about the settlement deal. Nor did another civil lawyer for Sanders, Christopher Oprison, a former special assistant and associate White House counsel during the George W. Bush administration who left Akerman in August to join DLA Piper in Miami. (Andrew Frisch, who runs his own two-lawyer firm in New York, has long served as Sanders’ criminal defense lawyer.)
Greenspoon Marder, a fast-growing, Florida-based Am Law 200 firm that hired Sanders as its COO in 2012 after the demise of Dewey & LeBoeuf, declined to comment on the SEC’s potential settlement with Sanders. A Greenspoon Marder spokeswoman confirmed that Sanders now serves as a consultant to the firm, which saw various lawyers and staffers submit character reference letters to a Manhattan court earlier this year seeking leniency in a criminal sentence for Sanders, who has MBA and law degrees from Baruch College and St. John’s University, respectively.
The New York Law Journal reported in July on the possibility of a settlement in the SEC’s case against Sanders and DiCarmine, which focused on a $150 million bond offering by Dewey & LeBoeuf—the firm initially put the total at $125 million—in 2010. In late October, former Dewey & LeBoeuf finance director Francis Canellas, a key witness in the criminal case against DiCarmine and Sanders, received a sentence of no jail time and 250 hours of community service as a result of his cooperation agreement with prosecutors.
Locke Lord complex commercial litigation of counsel Michael King in Chicago and partner R.J. De Rose in New York, both of whom were retained by DiCarmine earlier this year to replace Bryan Cave as his counsel in the SEC case, did not respond to requests for comment about the status of settlement talks. Nor did Seward & Kissel’s Glavin, who was also hired by DiCarmine in 2016 to replace Bryan Cave as his counsel in the criminal case.
Caproni has scheduled a pretrial conference in the SEC case for Jan. 5.