If you haven’t yet watched 60 Minutes’ recent episode on Anonymous, Inc., you might consider using in class it to spark conversation about Model Rule 1.2(d)’s requirement that:
A lawyer shall not counsel a client to engage, or assist a client, in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal or fraudulent, but a lawyer may discuss the legal consequences of any proposed course of conduct with a client and may counsel or assist a client to make a good faith effort to determine the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law.
The episode features interviews with 16 attorneys by a fictitious client seeking help with money laundering. Interestingly, only one attorney flatly refused to engage. Among the rest, we see fascinating clips of their conversations as they weigh whether or not to take on the client. The second half of the show features legal ethics expert Bill Simon discussing the attorneys’ behavior.
Here’s a brief synopsis from the 60 Minutes website:
If you like crime dramas and movies with international intrigue, then you probably have a basic understanding of money laundering. It’s how dictators, drug dealers, corrupt politicians, and other crooks avoid getting caught by transforming their ill-gotten gains into assets that appear to be legitimate.
They do it by moving the dirty money through a maze of dummy corporations and offshore bank accounts that conceal their identity and the source of the funds.
And most of it would never happen without the help — witting or unwitting — of lawyers, accountants and incorporators; the people who actually create these anonymous shell companies and help move the money. In fact, the U.S. has become one of the most popular places in the world to do it.
More coverage below:
Full report from Global Witness, the group conducting the investigation, is here.
ABA Journal, Group goes undercover at 13 law firms to show how US laws facilitate anonymous investment
NY Times, Report describes lawyers’ advice on moving suspect funds
ABA President Paulette Brown responds to 60 Minutes segment here.