Lawyers in the City of New York are preparing for the surge of white-collar criminal and civil cases due to market volatility caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The expected upswing is very likely to mimic the trends that followed the dot-com bubble during the turn of the century and the 2008 financial crisis. However, investigations will be slow and trials delayed because of court shutdowns.
According to David Miller, partner at Greenburg Traurig and former assistant US attorney, investigations of misconduct related to the pandemic are already underway but it is very likely that additional cases will arise from previous acts that are now being brought to light.
Miller expects a combination of criminal and civil law enforcement actions. He also said that the focus of the US attorney’s offices will be on the general areas of law enforcement but with increased emphasis on areas specific to coronavirus crisis like false claims and fraud, misrepresentations in obtaining critical PPEs and government loans.
In recent weeks, Brooklyn US Attorney’s Office has filed criminal charges of hoarding and price-gouging of PPEs under the Defence Product Act. The Justice Department has stated that Covid19-related fraud will be prioritized. The cases will be an offshoot of probes that are directly related to the pandemic or results of pressure from heightened market volatility.
Getting cases to trial is another thing. Many investigators are ordered to stay home and this could affect travel and face-to-face interviews. Impaneling grand juries is very difficult resulting to issues in indicting criminals.
Currently, all jury trials in the Southern District are suspended indefinitely. It is still unclear when courts will fully reopen to conduct regular business. Some of the trials that were scheduled for fall were already postponed until next year. Civil trials have to take a backseat to criminal prosecutions.
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