Mayer Brown partner charged with fraud, money laundering

One of Mayer Brown’s most senior partners was indicted this week on charges relating to the collapse of commodities brokerage Refco.

Joseph Collins, the former head of the firm’s derivatives group, was charged in the Southern District of New York on Tuesday (18 December) with two counts of securities fraud, three counts of making false filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and other counts including wire fraud and money laundering.

The charges related to the 2004 sale of a majority stake in Refco, Collins’ client, to Thomas H Lee & Partners. The charges also related to his involvement in Refco’s 2005 initial public offering.

At a news conference this week, US Attorney Michael Garcia said Collins had furthered the fraud at Refco, “by telling lies and deceptive half-truths and omitting material information”.

Garcia added: “He was not merely a lawyer whose client was committing fraud and who should have caught on. Collins instead played an active and crucial part in perpetrating the Refco fraud.”

Collins has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

A Mayer Brown spokesperson said that Collins is on leave from the firm, and added: “Our review of the evidence available to us shows that the firm acted in a profesional, competent and ethical manner in its work on behalf of Refco.”

Earlier this year 25 defendants, including Mayer Brown, were named in a fraud suit relating to Refco. It accuses Mayer Brown and the firm’s co-defendants of creating and participating in “an elaborate scheme” aimed at creating the illusion that Refco was successful and lucrative.