A different Bear Stearns decision might have meant more charges

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There's no question that the Raj Rajaratnam insider trading conviction means a lot to a federal prosecutor. The government now has the wind at its back in its efforts to prosecute and try others.

For an indication of just how important the win was, consider the trial of Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin, formerly of Bear Stearns. They were acquitted by a jury of charges that continued to Bear Stearns hedge funds, even as they were selling out. The evidence included several emails that prosecutors held up as incriminating. There was no wiretapped evidence, but at the time people were talking about how email was proving a goldmine for prosecutors.

In hindsight, one has to wonder if a different outcome in the Cioffi and Tannnin trial would have led to more charges against individuals. It's hard to play that counter-factual game.

No doubt there are many who are chagrined that we've seen no criminal charges against individual executives. The last chance would seem to be upon us. The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has sent its exhaustive report to the Department of Justice, with a recommendation that charges be filed. It seems like a long shot, and it will likely be the last shot at individual charges. Aware that the opportunity may be fading, some in Congress are playing hardball.

For more:
- here's a Bloomberg article about the disappointment some feel that no criminal charges have been filed against individual executives

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