By Brendan Pierson
(Reuters) - The former chief financial officer of defunct law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf, whose collapse five years ago was the largest failure of a law firm in U.S. history, has avoided prison time after being convicted of defrauding the firm's investors.
Joel Sanders, 59, was sentenced on Tuesday by Justice Robert Stolz in Manhattan Supreme Court to pay a $1 million fine and perform 750 hours of community service.
The sentence was handed down five months after the firm’s former executive director, Stephen DiCarmine, was acquitted of the same charges, and 19 months after prosecutors dropped charges against its former chairman, Steven Davis.
"I'm deeply sorry for anything I did or didn't do that caused anybody harm," Sanders said in court before being sentenced.
His lawyer, Andrew Frisch, declined to comment on the sentence. Frisch said in May that he planned to appeal Sanders' conviction.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance had sought up to four years in prison for Sanders. The criminal case against Dewey & LeBoeuf's executives was one of the most significant white-collar prosecutions brought by Vance since he took office in 2010.
"This case demonstrates the Office’s commitment to prosecuting those who sacrifice professional integrity for financial gain," Vance said in a statement on Tuesday.
The law firm, which once had close to 1,400 lawyers, went bankrupt in May 2012, unable to pay for the lavish compensation packages it had promised to recruit star partners.
Prosecutors said the executives used illegal accounting adjustments between 2008 and 2012 to conceal the firm’s financial difficulties from investors in its bonds, including Bank of America Corp and HSBC Holdings Plc.
Seven lower-level employees pleaded guilty to criminal charges in connection with Vance’s investigation.
The first trial for the three executives ended in a mistrial in October 2015 when jurors, after four months of testimony and a month of deliberations, declared themselves hopelessly deadlocked on most counts.
After that trial, Davis struck a deal with prosecutors to avoid a second trial, agreeing to a five-year ban from practicing law in New York. Justice Robert Stolz dismissed the most serious charge, grand larceny, against the other two men.
The second trial for Sanders and DiCarmine began in February 2017 and lasted about three months.
Dewey & LeBoeuf was created in 2007 with the merger of two established firms - Dewey Ballantine, which was founded in 1909, and LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, which started in 1929.
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Frances Kerry)