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Fee Forfeiture: Getting It Up Front May Not Mean You Get It in the End
By Barry Tarlow
RICO Report columns.
Stephen Saccoccia and his wife Donna had a very lucrative business in the coin and precious metals trading industry. The government, however, concluded that their lucre was generated by laundering money for Columbian drug dealers. Enchanted by the glint of the millions of dollars that passed through the Saccoccias’ business, the prosecutors eventually sought part of the take from one of their favorite sources — the defendants’ attorneys.
Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s cynical doubts that defense lawyers would ever qualify as a bona fide purchaser for value of attorneys’ fees paid with tainted assets, Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered v. United States, 491 U.S. 617, 632 (1989), the Saccoccias’ lawyers were nonetheless ultimately allowed to keep nearly half of the fees sought by the prosecutors because they received the money in good faith and without notice of its taint. A critical determinative fact also acts as a reminder to the private defense bar — the lawyers were permitted to keep
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