White-Collar Crime

Ex-Dewey finance director pleaded guilty to larceny; 6 more pleas unsealed a day later

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Updated: A former finance director of Dewey & LeBoeuf is one of seven individuals whose cases were sealed when criminal charges were announced early this month against onetime top leaders of the bankrupt BigLaw firm concerning an alleged $200 million accounting fraud.

Francis Canellas pleaded guilty to grand larceny in February and has agreed to cooperate with the prosecution in the New York Supreme Court case. On Friday, six more guilty pleas by former employees were unsealed. The six were all financial workers working primarily under Canellas and Joel Sanders, the firm’s former chief financial officer.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said earlier this week that he expected to ask the court to unseal the cases against the other “Secret Seven” defendants who earlier took pleas, but he opposed a request by the New York Times to intervene and seek an explanation for why the cases were not initially made public, according to Bloomberg and the New York Law Journal (sub.req.).

Earlier Am Law Daily (sub. req.) and Bloomberg articles provide additional details.

Canellas is accused of collaborating with Dewey ex-chairman Steven Davis, as well as the firm’s former executive director Stephen DiCarmine, former chief financial officer Joel Sanders, and former controller Thomas Mullikin to provide misleading information to banks.

The group’s claimed motive for doing so was to keep Dewey afloat financially amidst a steep drop in business caused by the Great Recession and, it appears, a perhaps too-ambitious law firm expansion plan that attracted star partners by offering them hefty compensation packages.

At least one partner has claimed he was tricked into providing capital due to misleading claims about the firm’s finances, but later settled a civil lawsuit on a confidential basis.

Updated March 28 to note subsequent coverage of the unsealing of the other six guilty pleas.

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