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SEC Collaborates With The Focal Point LLC in Accounting Fraud Trial Win; Litigation Strategists Support Federal Attorneys in Complex Civil Case
CHICAGO, July 7, 2006/PRNewswire/—A team of trial strategists was the secret weapon in the federal government’s successful conviction of James Koenig, the former chief financial officer of Waste Management Inc.
On June 29, a Chicago jury found Koenig liable for falsifying accounts at the global garbage removal and recycling company while engaging in “massive financial fraud” totaling $1.7 billion between 1992 and 1997. The company’s value plunged $6 billion when the fraud was discovered, leading to one of the largest financial scandals in U.S. corporate history.
To properly position the themes and facts of the case, attorneys with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission called on the analytical and graphics skills of The Focal Point LLC, an Oakland, California-based litigation strategy and graphics firm. For more than six months the trial strategists from The Focal Point worked with SEC attorneys to refine the opening statements at trial, simplify complex accounting practices through more than 150 visual displays, and summarize the 11 weeks of trial testimony in closing statements.
“This was the first billion-dollar-plus financial fraud case in SEC history, and it was critical that the jury be able to understand complicated, high-level accounting processes,” says Andy Spingler, founder and CEO of The Focal Point. “Jurors needed to visualize what should have happened versus what actually happened.”
“Because of the complex concepts in this case, we held a day-long session with the legal team to develop the key themes and framework to ultimately present to the jury,” says Chris Ritter, a partner and leader of The Focal Point trial team. “We call this approach Mental Mining. It’s a process that helps attorneys identify the salient points of a case and the potential conscious and subconscious responses of a jury to those facts. We knew that the images, analogies and metaphors—both verbal and visual—were going to be key factors.”
To view key visuals developed for this case by The Focal Point, visit: SEC v. Buntrock.
Since 1989, The Focal Point has worked with trial lawyers in courtrooms throughout the United States in more than 1,000 civil and criminal cases. The Focal Point has built a successful track record of making all forms of courtroom presentations more persuasive and by making complex cases easier for judges and jurors to understand. The Focal Point’s Chris Ritter is the author of Creating Winning Trial Strategies and Graphics, which was recently published by the American Bar Association.