Two Strikes and You’re Out: The Litvak Saga Comes to an End
August 8, 2018
On Monday, following two reversals of convictions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut moved to dismiss the sole securities fraud claim remaining against former Jefferies bond trader, Jesse Litvak, bringing an end to the 5 1/2-year long case against him.
During the case’s winding procedural path, the Government twice secured convictions against Litvak by jury trial—on the theory that Litvak’s alleged misstatements about his own costs and profit margins for residential mortgage-backed securities (“RMBS”) trades would have been material to the decision-making of a reasonable (and often sophisticated) investor-buyer. And twice the Second Circuit overturned the convictions on narrow and technical grounds. Notably, even while seeking to dismiss the remaining charge, the Government maintains in its filing that the Second Circuit’s decisions left undisturbed the soundness of its legal theories—namely that a broker-dealer’s misstatements relating to his own profits to sophisticated counterparties could satisfy the materiality requirement for securities fraud as a matter of law. Thus, notwithstanding the additional hurdles presented by the Second Circuit’s decisions, the Government’s decision not to pursue yet another trial against Litvak does not signal a death knell for all similar charges in the future, particularly those that are currently pending and arose as part of the Government’s RMBS probe. But the somewhat torturous history of the Litvak case does highlight the difficulty for the Government in establishing the materiality of alleged misstatements made to sophisticated securities professionals who undertake their own analysis of trades. Indeed, in many of these RMBS cases, the Government faced an uphill battle from the start, evidenced by its inability to secure convictions in many of them.