| NEW HAVEN, Conn.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. Jan 10 A former Jefferies
Group Inc managing director accused of cheating clients and the
government on mortgage securities after the 2008 financial
crisis failed to persuade a federal judge to keep jurors from
being told that "taxpayers" were victims of his alleged fraud.
At a four-hour hearing on Friday, Chief Judge Janet Hall of
the U.S. District Court in Connecticut rejected an argument by
lawyers for Jesse Litvak that prosecutors should instead refer
to "the government" or "the U.S. Treasury" as alleged victims.
With Litvak looking on, John Hillebrecht, one of his
lawyers, argued that his client might be unfairly prejudiced "if
a juror thinks, 'This person is stealing my money.'"
Hall recognized the potential problem, asking federal
prosecutor Jonathan Francis whether the word "taxpayer" would
make jurors "feel they are personally invested in the case."
For now, she said she would allow the word but could decide
later to restrict its use if she felt that was necessary.
Prosecutors have accused Litvak of cheating customers on
residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) trades, hoping to
boost Jefferies' revenue and his own pay.
The government was also an alleged victim because some of
the bond buyers had taken part in the Public-Private Investment
Program, a component of the $700 billion federal bailout known
as the Troubled Asset Relief Program. PPIP was intended to help
rebuild a market for troubled mortgage debt.
Unveiled last Jan. 28, Litvak's case was the first brought
under a 2009 law banning "major fraud" against the United States
The case took on added importance this week as the
government said it was probing fraud in the trading of
residential mortgage-backed securities, including in
transactions stemming from the bailout.
The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, said the
Department of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission and
TARP special inspector general are probing whether eight or more
banks cheated mortgage bond clients after the 2008 crisis.
At Friday's hearing, Hall also ruled that Litvak's lawyers
should not tell jurors that some 2,700 other transactions he
conducted while at Jefferies were proper.
Hall said such a claim would be impossible to verify and is
not germane to the 11 transactions discussed in the indictment.
"The fact that I drive 55 miles per hour, 364 days a year on
the Merritt Parkway doesn't mean I'm not driving 80 miles per
hour on the last day of the year," thereby breaking the law, she
Hall also said prosecutors could try to introduce a small
number of other transactions to show Litvak had a financial
motive to defraud, if his pay were dependent on his activity.
Litvak has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of securities
fraud, one count of TARP fraud, and four counts of making false
Jury selection has been set for Feb 3. A trial would begin
on Feb. 18, and could last about four calendar weeks, including
REVENUE, PAY BOOST
Prosecutors have said Litvak generated more than $2.7
million of revenue for Jefferies on the bond sales.
The customers include funds at AllianceBernstein Holding LP
, BlackRock Inc, Soros Fund Management LLC, Daniel
Loeb's Third Point LLC and Wellington Management Co.
Litvak lied about the prices he paid and invented an
imaginary seller of bonds that Jefferies already held, allowing
him to charge commissions he did not earn, according to
He did so to help offset his poor trading, including a more
than $10 million loss in 2011, which was a factor in his
compensation, prosecutors have said.
Litvak has said the markups charged on his bonds were within
industry norms, and that his alleged victims were
"sophisticated" enough to decide whether the prices were fair.
In a court filing on Thursday, prosecutors accused Litvak of
violating a confidentiality agreement by making grand jury
The government said similar improper disclosures could shed
light on "the scope and direction" of its unfinished fraud
probe, and asked Hall to order that Litvak halt such conduct,
which Hall granted.
Jefferies is now part of Leucadia National Corp.
Neither company was charged.
Litvak, who was fired in December 2011, faces up to 20 years
in prison on each count if convicted. The U.S. Securities and
Exchange Commission has filed related civil charges.
The cases are U.S. v. Litvak, U.S. District Court, District
of Connecticut, No. 13-cr-00019; and SEC v. Litvak in the same
court, No. 13-00132.