A litigation team led by Debevoise & Plimpton LLP partners John Gleeson and David Sarratt has successfully secured a rare post-trial victory obtaining a Rule 29 acquittal of ex-Fox International Channels CEO Hernan Lopez in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Judge Pamela K. Chen issued her order vacating the conviction on September 1.
Lopez, along with an Argentine sports marketing company, had been charged in connection with the EDNY’s sprawling FIFA case, in which the government alleged bribes were paid to South American soccer officials in exchange for broadcast rights, and was convicted after a trial in March. Shortly after the trial, however, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a pair of decisions in Ciminelli v. United States and Percoco v. United States, cautioning against other novel applications of the wire fraud statutes.
In its post-trial briefing, the Debevoise team reiterated its pretrial argument that the honest services fraud statute, under which Mr. Lopez was charged, does not extend to alleged bribery that involves depriving a foreign private employer of the honest services of its foreign employee. Following the analysis in Percoco and Ciminelli, Judge Chen agreed, reversing her own prior decision and finding that the absence of any precedent for applying the honest services statute to foreign commercial bribery was fatal to the government’s theory.
In addition to Mr. Gleeson and Mr. Sarratt, the Debevoise team included counsel Sarah Wolf and associates Nestor Almeida, Joshua N. Cohen, Nicole Flores, José Martinez, Michael McGregor, Lorena Rodriguez, Katherine Stein and Rebecca Urquiola.