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From my worldview, one of the most noteworthy “when the writ hits the fan” convictions of the year was the conviction of Pharma Bro’s (Martin Shkreli) lawyer and big law partner Evan Greebel.

A jury convicted Mr. Greebel of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud for his actions in helping Pharma Bro commit his crimes. You may recall that Pharma Bro was convicted of securities fraud for misleading investors about hedge funds he managed. He was sentenced to 7 years in prison, fined, and forced to forfeit $7.4 million to include the hip-hop group Wu-Tang’s album that he had bought which was valued at about $2 million.

Mr. Greebel, by all accounts, a good human being and a good lawyer, went down for his decisions to get wrapped up in Pharma Bro’s fraud schemes.  At sentencing, Mr. Greebel tried to portray himself as just another victim of Pharma Bro’s illegal schemes and manipulations. The judge did not buy it. She pointed out that Mr. Greebel is not naïve, nor was he led astray by the conniving Pharma Bro. Instead, the judge found that Mr. Greebel had “engaged in a pattern and practice of deceit.”

This situation is similar to the Cohen search warrant, in that, it demonstrates again the notion that a lawyer, who participates in the illegal schemes of their clients, are not only subject to search warrants but also to conviction and jail.  

As lawyers, it’s not always easy or pleasant to debate your clients and to “encourage” them to follow the law and to make ethical decisions. But it’s a lawyer’s professional obligation to do so; and our business clients should demand such guidance from us. And, if that does not convince you to hold the line against some of your client’s “great ideas” that are also clearly illegal ideas, then, remember it is also your law license and your freedom.  

One of my legal heroes, Ben Heineman, former GC of GE, describes what those of us who counsel corporate clients and their executive through the tough times should aim to accomplish:

“All in-house lawyers (I would add external lawyers who advise corporations) should aspire to be the lawyer-statesman with broad scope and the multiple roles of technician, counselor and leader who is an invaluable advisor and officer to the CEO and the board in playing a key role—not the role—in helping the company achieve the fundamental goals of capitalism, the fusion of high performance with high integrity.” General Counsel are One Conscience of the Company A Response to IBM’s Robert Weber, Ben Heineman, Jr., January 24, 2013, Corporate Counsel

The intersection of law, business, criminal activity crime and ethics: why do some companies violate the law? what happens when they do? what is ethical? how do we get corporations to follow the law? can lawyers help and, if so, what is the lawyer’s role? Stay tuned, we’re going to address all of these issues and more in When the Writ Hits the Fan.

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