Thursday, July 3, 2008

Former Refco CEO Sentenced After Plea Deal

Former Refco CEO Phillip Bennett was sentenced today to 16 years in prison for his involvement in a fraud the government alleges involved $2.4 billion. According to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog:
Refco IPO’d in August 2005. It filed for bankruptcy just weeks later — after disclosing that a $430 million debt owed to Refco by a firm controlled by Bennett had been concealed. The disclosure caused Refco’s stock value to plummet.

At today’s hearing, SDNY Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said white-collar defendants like Bennett often “just don’t think they’ll get caught.” Buchwald continued: “You and others like you play a truly high-stakes poker game.”

Speaking of high-stakes poker games, did Bennett make the right decision regarding pleading guilty? With a $2.4 billion loss number for purposes of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, it is clear that he would have remained in jail the remainder of his life had he lost at trial. As such, and with the evidence appearing fairly strong, this may have been the best deal possible for this particular defendant. Perhaps the best answer, however, is that you can't win a poker-game that has $2.4 billion on the table at sentencing.

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