The Lauro Law Firm represents individuals and businesses in a wide range of white collar criminal defense and civil litigation matters. Our representation covers the initial, internal, and grand jury investigative stages through trial, if necessary. We have considerable experience representing and providing counsel to businesspeople who are in the C-Suite or those who work with them. Our clients include Chief Operating Officers (COO), Chief Executive Officers (CEO), Chief Financial Officers (CFO), Chief Legal Officers (CLO), Chief Compliance Officers (CCO), General Counsel, presidents, vice presidents, controllers, managers, members of the Board of Directors, audit committee members, and more. We also represent numerous small business owners and entrepreneurs. Our goal is to present powerful arguments to avoid indictment and resolve cases without going to court, but we are always ready to defend our clients’ rights at trial.
State and federal regulatory and law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) (a division within the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department) have become especially aggressive in investigating allegations of healthcare fraud. The healthcare statutes are written broadly to encompass many activities that most healthcare professionals would never believe could be deemed fraud or criminal. Nonetheless, violations of the healthcare fraud laws can lead to severe criminal and civil consequences. Over the years, we have represented healthcare executives and members of the management team, providers, hospitals, managed care and insurance professionals, doctors, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and practice groups in a broad array of healthcare matters, including allegations of upcoding, kickbacks, antitrust violations, unnecessary and inappropriate procedures or care, improper coding, unbundling, and other fraud allegations. Many times, our clients also face qui tam (false claims) and whistleblower lawsuits seeking damages. These cases are brought by individuals motivated to make money. In fact, the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently encouraged whistleblower attorneys to make criminal referrals to the DOJ and U.S. Attorney’s Offices for suspected criminal violations. Our firm represents clients in all phases of a healthcare fraud case—civil and criminal investigations to qui tam litigation to trial.
We represent individuals in a variety of accounting and securities fraud matters brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and DOJ, as well as by private individuals in civil class-action suits. The securities fraud laws are written very broadly and it is often difficult to assess whether alleged conduct falls within them. These cases often involve complex issues that include alleged improper revenue recognition, accruals, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) treatment, and statutory accounting.Often the client faces charges and claims involving violations of the antifraud provisions of the securities laws, insider trading claims, and disgorgement and clawback penalties. Recently, the government has used wiretap and consensual recordings to prosecute individuals accused of wrongdoing in the securities industry. This leads to issues that are often beyond the comprehension of non-experts, including prosecutors. We create strategic alliances with top-rated experts to assist us in dealing with regulatory and law enforcement agencies, and we have repeatedly prepared and assembled a team of lawyers and experts to address any type of accounting or securities fraud issues. Mr. Lauro has extensive experience handling these complex issues in courts around the country and has skillfully cross-examined leading financial and forensic experts and executives from around the country on these difficult issues.
The last several years have seen a significant uptick in antitrust enforcement by federal regulators and law enforcement, and we anticipate that this aggressive enforcement will continue. Investigations under the antitrust statutes typically allege price fixing, bid rigging or customer allocation agreements in violation of the U.S. Sherman Act or international law. We have been involved in several high profile cases that were investigated by the DOJ Antitrust Division in connection with alleged monopolistic conduct by international companies. These cases are often related to class-action civil litigation brought by civil plaintiffs’ counsel. Many times international regulatory agencies are also involved in parallel proceedings with their U.S. counterparts. These agencies conduct reviews of complex commercial transactions for compliance. We have represented individuals in all phases of antitrust litigation—civil and criminal. Often this involves building a close relationship with defense lawyers for the company and developing a robust and credible joint defense. We recently convinced DOJ prosecutors not to bring charges against a foreign client who was under investigation for antitrust violations.
Money laundering charges often expose clients to additional penalties and liability, and sometimes prosecutors “tack on” these charges to underlying securities or mail fraud charges. In its most basic sense, money laundering involves the movement of or hiding of illicit proceeds (i.e. money) that derives from some sort of alleged criminal conduct. We have seen money laundering charges brought where the alleged conduct simply involved usual corporate transactions such as issuing stock, transferring funds under a contract, etc. We have also represented banking executives caught up in such investigations. As a result, our firm has had to aggressively attack the prosecutorial theory for bringing such charges, and we have sought to obtain dismissal of the charges prior to trial. Nonetheless, these charges remain a favorite prosecutorial tool to put more pressure on clients to plead guilty to avoid the risk of being convicted at trial. In one of our recent criminal securities fraud cases seeking the freeze and forfeiture of assets, we were able to obtain the dismissal of all money laundering charges prior to trial based on the prosecutor’s failure to properly establish a connection between the alleged tainted funds and unlawful activity. We also represented a partner with a prominent law firm who faced money laundering charges in connection with his representation of a client, and we were able to convince the prosecutor not to file any criminal charges.
In some instances federal or state prosecutors will try to bring “racketeering” conspiracy charges against businesspeople by stringing together several disparate allegations of wrongdoing allegedly tied to a definable enterprise, which can be a very legitimate corporation. Once again, charges brought under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act will ratchet up the potential penalties and make the case seem more ominous to a jury. Our firm has handled many civil and criminal racketeering cases over the years, and we have challenged the basis for bringing such claims. We assisted a New York lawyer in defending himself against racketeering charges brought in connection with a failed insurance company in Florida. He was acquitted of all charges.
For many years tax fraud criminal enforcement took a back seat to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents investigating drug-related offenses and money laundering schemes. That has all changed recently. The IRS criminal division is back in business investigating run-of-the-mill tax cases, including but not limited to, aggressive tax shelters, alleged sham transactions to reduce taxable income, and the misreporting of income. Many times, the alleged conduct involves offshore dealings with third parties and complex structured transactions that may or may not have economic substance. We work with tax experts to clearly understand the transactions and issues. In several instances, we have represented professionals such as accountants and lawyers who have been caught up in an investigation and have persuaded prosecutors not to bring charges against them.
The federal mail and wire fraud statutes criminalize so-called “schemes or artifices to defraud.” The courts continually struggle with placing limits on prosecutions under these laws, since they are written so broadly and can encompass what one court has characterized as “commercial sharp practices.” Sadly, almost any commercial dispute can be turned into a mail and wire fraud investigation—even those involving the correct interpretation of contractual agreements. Because Congress has never defined “scheme or artifice to defraud,” an individual can be accused of a crime without any indication that he was doing anything wrong or unlawful. We have defended numerous mail and wire fraud investigations and prosecutions (including representing a sports figure in a national gambling scandal), and focus on establishing the reasonableness of our client’s conduct. This often involves an exhaustive examination of business practices and industry norms. We engage national experts to help us articulate credible defenses in order to persuade prosecutors not to bring charges. However, if they do, we prepare our team to proceed to trial.
Public corruption investigations cover all allegations of abuse of political office such as offering or receiving bribes, whether here in the United States or in another country. It is important to note that the government also prosecutes U.S. businesses and individuals who corruptly influence foreign politicians and officials. These cases are brought under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and often involve dealings in China, South America, and elsewhere. While a federal prosecutor, Mr. Lauro was part of a team that investigated and prosecuted a widespread corruption scheme involving federal defense contractors. The investigation also reached congressional offices. In private practice, he has counseled individuals involved in public corruption allegations and has represented the CEO of a public company who was investigated for FCPA violations—and successfully resolved the matter with no criminal charges brought against any individuals.
Since the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley statute, prosecutors have had expanded powers to bring obstruction of justice charges for the destruction or concealment of evidence. These cases can be very troubling since many times the government cannot prove any underlying wrongdoing, but nonetheless threaten the client with an obstruction charge for tampering with evidence. We educate and counsel clients about the need to adhere to strict document retention protocols in anticipation of a possible or existing investigation. Additionally, we assist clients with document preservation protocols and the production of these documents to government entities, including ensuring a comprehensive E-Discovery response. Handling evidence appropriately and competently is the best way to avoid any obstruction issue.
Intellectual property includes ideas, inventions, and creative expressions often in the form of trade secrets, products, and media. It is unlawful to misappropriate the intellectual property of another for one’s use. Although these cases are often brought in civil court, prosecutors may also bring criminal cases for the theft of intellectual property. These matters are complex and many times involve disputes about the ownership of the intellectual property. We have assisted law enforcement in bringing cases for intellectual property theft, as well as defended those accused of such activity, often times in high-profile matters. It is crucial that counsel master the intricacies of the property at issue in order to prosecute or defend such cases. As technology expands, we anticipate that criminal enforcement will grow as well.
The federal False Claims Act authorizes a private party or “relator” to sue individuals and government contractors for alleged wrongdoing. These lawsuits are referred to as qui tam actions. Typically, these cases develop from a disgruntled or unhappy employee who strikes back at a company for perceived mistreatment. However, the claims can disrupt a business and lead to significant potential liability, especially in industries such as health care and defense contracting. States have similar false claims acts as well. Very often a criminal investigation commences along with the filing of a qui tam action. We represent clients in all aspects of these cases—civil and criminal. In fact, in one particularly complex case we were able to resolve a potential qui tam matter following cross-examination of the relator in an employee contract suit he had filed against a hospital system. We have also been involved in another case where an employee joined a company with the express purpose of trying to find something he could sue about and strike it rich in a qui tam case. It is critical to appreciate the potential connection between an actual or threatened qui tam case and a possible related criminal investigation. Counsel must be prepared to defend against civil claims as well as criminal allegations. We provide those services to our clients who need them.
Class-action lawsuits are brought on behalf of individuals who supposedly share a common claim against others or a business. For example, shareholders of a public company may bring a securities class-action lawsuit alleging that directors or officers engaged in fraud in connection with the purchase or sale of securities. We defend these types of cases by responding with an aggressive motion practice seeking a dismissal and narrowing of the claims. In one such matter in federal court in Florida, we represented a businessman accused of securities fraud. We filed a persuasive and compelling motion to dismiss based on a statute of limitations issues and successfully obtained a dismissal of the entire lawsuit along with sanctions against the plaintiff.
Congress has passed several environmental protection statutes with criminal provisions, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act. The DOJ has not always been consistent in its policy for bringing charges under these statutes, but from time to time, it will initiate a high profile case as part of its enforcement strategy. Due to the complexity and innumerable rules and regulations that are involved in these types of cases, criminal enforcement raises a host of issues. Sadly, many of our clients had no idea that their conduct might create criminal exposure or liability. Over the years we have represented numerous individuals and businesses in connection with environmental criminal investigations. Because these matters are complex and science-driven, we immediately consult with environmental experts who can help advocate our defenses and obtain a favorable outcome for our clients.
We represent individuals and businesses in a broad array of contract disputes, many of which allege fraudulent misconduct. Our cases run the gamut from financial fraud allegations brought by investors who have been misled to the purported genuineness of rare works of art. We have litigated these cases in Florida and Manhattan federal courts. Many civil litigation attorneys have little or no trial experience, and counsel involved in those cases certainly know that. Clients face an unfair disadvantage when the opposition knows that their counsel will not or cannot handle a complex trial.On the other hand, we are trial lawyers, and our opponents fully understand the consequences of going to trial against us. We have handled some of the most sophisticated trials in the country that involve complex commercial and corporate issues. Our opponents fully appreciate that if they decide to go the distance, they will face a formidable and powerful trial team. We believe that these circumstances provide our firm with a value added advantage with resolving these civil disputes.
Businesses often face competitors who engage in a variety of unfair conduct, including the improper use of trade secrets and other proprietary information that otherwise create unfair confusion in the marketplace. These cases are usually brought under the federal Lanham Act. We represent businesses victimized by such conduct as well as those who are unfairly accused of unlawful competitive activities. We have represented clients who sought protection from the courts, including obtaining injunctive relief to prevent ongoing unfair conduct. We have also defended individual clients who have been unfairly accused of violating their fiduciary duties to former employers and engaging in unfair competition. This litigation requires counsel to obtain a comprehensive understanding of our client’s business and the competitive environment.