New York Federal Court Okays Wiretap Evidence in Insider Trading Prosecutions

In a series of insider trading prosecutions in federal court in New York judges have ruled that wiretap evidence is admissible. The cases have arisen from a three year investigation of the Galleon hedge fund. The best known of the prosecutions is the case against Raj Rajaratnam, founder of Galleon. he is scheduled to go on trial on February 28, 2011, in the Southern District of New York.

In Rajaratnam’s case, as well as the companion cases, the Justice Department has sought to introduce evidence of conversations intercepted pursuant to court authorized wiretaps. These cases appear to be the first time that wiretap evidence will be used by the government in an insider trading prosecution.

Wiretaps are authorized by the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968. They are an extraordinary investigative tool and are to be used only when the government demonstrates to the court that such wiretaps are necessary to further its investigation. Wiretaps are authorized when other less intrusive investigative techniques have proved insufficient. Courts refer to this as the “necessity” requirement. Affidavits in support of wiretap warrants must contain sufficient information to satisfy the court that other investigative means will not prove effective and that the wiretap requested is necessary to conduct the investigation. In many ways the law views a wiretap as essentially an investigative technique of last resort.

Historically, government has limited its use of wiretaps to investigations of crimes such as drug distribution and racketeering type offenses. Investigators have not used the technique in pursuit of white collar crime such as securities fraud. The probable explanation for this fact is that white collar type cases often have large numbers of documents that investigators can use to investigate economic relationships and the flow of monies. Moreover, business crime investigation typically affords the opportunity to interview witnesses who are not connected to the criminal scheme. Thus, document review, witness interviews, financial forensic analysis, and a grand jury may all be useful in concluding a successful investigation without the necessity of wiretaps. Additionally, wiretaps are most beneficial in the investigation of ongoing criminal activity. Most fraud investigations are retrospective. Thus, there is less likelihood of obtaining relevant evidence from a wiretap during a fraud investigation.

The fact that the government successfully persuaded courts to authorize the wiretaps and then admit the evidence from the taps in an insider trading prosecution suggests that in the future government investigators will seek to use wiretaps in fraud investigations where they believe that the criminal conduct is ongoing.

About Richard Serafini

Welcome to my blog. I am an attorney and practice in the area of corporate trial work. Areas of particular emphasis are white collar defense, securities litigation, health care litigation, internal investigations, RICO, and financial litigation. I will be posting interesting developments in my areas of interest. I hope that you find this blog helpful and informative.