WASHINGTON — Three former executives of General Electric Co. subsidiaries — Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm — will stand trial in March 2012 for allegedly participating in wire-fraud schemes and conspiracies in connection with the bidding for investment contracts for municipal bond proceeds over a seven-year period.
Justice Department attorneys and counsel representing the three defendants, who each previously pleaded not guilty, agreed to the tentative trial date at a pretrial conference Thursday before Judge Harold Baer, who sits on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan.
The hearing came a day after three former UBS bankers — Peter Ghavami, Gary Heinz and Michael Welty — pleaded not guilty in the same court for their alleged participation in fraud schemes and conspiracies in connection with the bidding of investment and other muni contracts from as early as 2001 until 2006. They were each indicted Dec. 9, a week after Ghavami, a Belgian national living in Moscow, was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York while entering the country. A trial date has yet to be set for them.
In a related case, a grand jury indicted CDR Financial Products and three current and former officials at the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based firm in October 2009. A trial in that case is scheduled to begin next September.
In addition, three former CDR employees have pleaded guilty to bid-rigging and fraud conspiracies in connection with the ongoing probe, while five other individuals have pleaded guilty to charges related to the investigation.
Last week, Bank of America Merrill Lynch agreed to pay more than $137 million to settle civil charges with four federal securities, banking, and tax regulators, as well as 20 state attorneys general, over its participation in a scheme to rig bids for muni reinvestment contracts between 1997 and 2005.
Criminal and civil charges against several additional market participants are widely expected.
The trial date for Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm has been scheduled so far ahead in part because of the volume of discovery, which is already well underway. An attorney for one of the defendants noted during Thursday’s hearing that he had just received 1.5 terabytes of data from the government, the equivalent of 40,000 boxes of documents, he said.
Baer, who is overseeing the case, said the parties will have until Jan. 15 to agree to a pretrial scheduling order.
The Justice Department announced in late July that a federal grand jury had indicted Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm on a total of 12 criminal counts, stemming from federal law enforcement agency’s massive antitrust investigation of the municipal market.
The indictment does not name the firms for which the three work, but refers to them generally as “Provider B” and described them as a group of separate financial services companies located in New York that were owned or controlled by a company headquartered in Fairfield Conn.
Sources said the company is GE and documents show that its subsidiaries included FGIC Capital Market Services Inc., GE Funding Capital Market Services Inc., Trinity Funding LLC and Trinity Plus Funding LLC.
The indictment charges Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm with conspiring with CDR Financial Products, an investment broker, to manipulate the bidding process so that it was not really competitive and their firms, or other specified firms, would win the awards of muni investment agreements. The three men obtained information from CDR about prices, price levels, rates, and conditions related to the bids of other investment-agreement providers. They obtained “last looks” at other bids, a practice prohibited under Treasury Department rules, according to the indictment. And they intentionally submitted losing bids so that other specified firms would win the right to provide the investment agreements to issuers.
The three men agreed to either pay kickbacks, or to arrange to have kickbacks paid, to CDR in the form of inflated fees in exchange for help with manipulating the bidding process, according to the indictment.
Carollo managed and supervised the day-to-day activities and personnel involved in the sales of investment agreements and other municipal finance contracts, the indictment says. Goldberg was a liability manager who was authorized to submit bids for investment agreements on behalf of his firm. Grimm was a liability manager and vice president who also had authority to submit bids for agreements.