Wanted: People That Aren't Pissed Off About the Financial Crisis to Convict Some Bear Stearns A$$hats
Ooooh, and I thought my job was hard!
It was “Twelve Angry Men” meets “Wall Street.”
The first criminal trial stemming from the financial panic opened on Tuesday in a courtroom in New York with one overarching question: in this era of foreclosures and bank bailouts, how carefully balanced does a jury have to be to render a fair verdict on financiers?
The case centers on two former executives of Bear Stearns, Ralph R. Cioffi and Matthew M. Tannin, who have been accused of lying to investors about the perilous state of two giant hedge funds that they oversaw. They have pleaded not guilty.
Selecting jurors — always a delicate dance — was particularly difficult given the turmoil on Wall Street. Several potential jurors interviewed by lawyers on Tuesday expressed contempt for the financial industry as a whole.
“People on Wall Street get away with a lot of wrongdoing,” one said. Another, who claimed to have lost money in the stock market, told the court that “financial institutions always try to bend the rules to make as much money as possible.”
The case will be a crucial test for prosecutors, who must persuade a jury of mostly working-class New Yorkers, some from foreign countries like Grenada and Ukraine, that Mr. Cioffi and Mr. Tannin acted criminally when they privately expressed concerns about their funds’ health while presenting a much rosier picture to investors. Even before potential jurors entered the courtroom, Judge Frederic Block of Federal District Court dismissed two of them after lawyers said they had expressed bias in questionnaires asking their opinions on the economy and Wall Street.
Legal experts said it would be almost impossible to find jurors unaffected by the crisis.
If convicted of the securities fraud charges, they face up to 20 years in prison.
“Both sides will probably pitch this at a very gut and emotional level, which is how most cases are decided anyway,” Robert S. Duboff, who runs the jury consulting firm HawkPartners, said. “But sometimes the people who are the most bitter at the institution could well end up being sympathetic to the people on trial.”
Every good cause needs a scapegoat, I suppose.