26 Nov 23

Federal Criminal Representation for Bankers

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Last Updated on: 5th December 2023, 02:11 pm


Federal Criminal Representation for Bankers

Bankers and other financial professionals often face intense scrutiny from federal regulators and prosecutors. Even minor infractions can trigger federal criminal investigations that result in severe penalties like prison time, massive fines, and permanent damage to one’s reputation and career. Having an experienced federal criminal defense attorney can mean the difference between a slap on the wrist versus a complete derailment of your life.

Federal Laws Used to Target Bankers

Bank fraud and embezzlement are among the most common federal charges levied against bankers and other financial professionals. The Bank Secrecy Act also creates many potential tripwires that can lead to criminal prosecution for things like failing to file SARs (suspicious activity reports). Money laundering, wire fraud, tax evasion, and false statements are other charges frequently used to go after bankers and financial executives.

Prosecutors often stack multiple charges together in order to pressure defendants into taking plea deals. Even if some charges seem minor or technical in nature, the collective potential penalties can be severe. Having an attorney who understands these statutes and how prosecutors typically apply them is extremely important.

Aggressive Investigative Tactics

Federal agents and prosecutors take white collar crime very seriously. They will use all legal means available to build the strongest case possible. This often includes surprise raids of homes and offices, freezing assets, issuing grand jury subpoenas, reviewing tens of thousands of documents, and conducting extensive witness interviews.

Defendants are often shocked at the government’s zeal. It is essential to have counsel who can advise on how to respond to aggressive investigative tactics. This helps avoid self-incrimination or obstruction charges that compound the original case.

Getting Charges Dismissed

The best outcome in a federal criminal case is avoiding any charges whatsoever. An experienced attorney will know how to argue for dismissal by challenging issues like improper government conduct, lack of evidence, or defects in the indictment.

Even if charges cannot be dismissed pre-trial, arguing these issues provides critical ammunition for plea negotiations and sentencing. Just avoiding one or two charges can substantially reduce overall penalties.

Sentencing Mitigation

If pleading guilty, the sentencing phase is arguably more important than the plea deal itself. Federal judges use complex sentencing guidelines that consider factors like financial loss amounts, abuse of trust, obstruction, and acceptance of responsibility. The difference between a 5-year versus 20-year sentence often comes down to skilled advocacy at sentencing.


Counsel who understands federal sentencing methodology can argue for downward departures and variances. This includes highlighting mitigating factors like charitable works, compliance programs, restitution, and assisting the government. Even a modest reduction from sentencing guidelines can translate into years less prison time.

Maintaining Licenses

For bankers and other licensed professionals, avoiding license suspension or revocation is critical. Attorneys who routinely handle professional licensing issues related to criminal charges are key. They can often work with regulators to avoid automatic license suspensions that frequently result from criminal allegations. Taking proactive steps to demonstrate compliance and present mitigating factors is important.

Avoiding Career-Ending Debarment

For bankers involved with federal lending programs, charges like fraud or embezzlement often lead to federal debarment. This is essentially a blackballing from all federal contracts and benefits across all agencies. However, skilled counsel can sometimes convince officials to grant exceptions or impose limited debarment. This can save one’s career, as permanent debarment is a career death sentence for those dependent on federal programs.

Navigating Parallel SEC Cases

When criminal charges involve public companies, parallel civil cases by the SEC are common. These cases can impose huge fines and officer/director bars. However, cooperating with SEC and DOJ investigations can sometimes lead to deferred or reduced civil penalties. Counsel experienced with these parallel matters can coordinate cooperation to achieve the best outcomes.

Avoiding the “Death Sentence”

Perhaps most feared is the potential bar from working in banking or financial services ever again. Known as the “death sentence,” these bars are imposed by the FDIC and other regulators. However, through adroit negotiation these bars can sometimes be avoided or limited to certain business lines. This lifeline depends on counsel’s experience negotiating with multiple federal agencies simultaneously.