U.S. v. Bronston, No. 1291

CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
Writing for the CourtBefore LUMBARD, MANSFIELD and VAN GRAAFEILAND; MANSFIELD; VAN GRAAFEILAND
Citation658 F.2d 920
Parties9 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 642 UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Jack E. BRONSTON, Defendant-Appellant. ocket 81-1015.
Decision Date19 August 1981
Docket NumberNo. 1291,D

Page 920

658 F.2d 920
9 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 642
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Jack E. BRONSTON, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 1291, Docket 81-1015.
United States Court of Appeals,
Second Circuit.
Argued April 27, 1981.
Decided Aug. 19, 1981.

Page 921

Louis Nizer, New York City (Phillips, Nizer, Benjamin, Krim & Ballon, New York City, of counsel), for defendant-appellant.

Pamela Rogers Chepiga, Asst. U. S. Atty., New York City (William M. Tendy, Chief Asst. U. S. Atty., Patricia M. Hynes, Mary

Page 922

Jo White, Asst. U. S. Attys., New York City, of counsel), for plaintiff-appellee.

Before LUMBARD, MANSFIELD and VAN GRAAFEILAND, Circuit Judges.

MANSFIELD, Circuit Judge:

Jack E. Bronston appeals from a judgment of the Southern District of New York entered after a jury trial before Judge Milton Pollack, convicting him of two counts of mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. § 1341, 1 based on the government's allegations that he fraudulently violated his fiduciary duty as an attorney by helping to further the efforts of Convenience and Safety Corporation ("C & S") and Saul Steinberg, chairman of C & S, to obtain a bus stop shelter franchise from the City of New York at the same time when the law firm in which he was a partner, Rosenman, Colin, Freund, Lewis & Cohen ("Rosenman Colin"), was representing a group of investors in BusTop Shelters, Inc. ("BusTop"), the then current holder of the franchise and a participant in the competition for its renewal. We affirm. The evidence was sufficient to allow the jury to convict Bronston of mail fraud based on his breach of his duty of loyalty to his firm's clients, his concealment from the clients of his promotion to their harm of the interests of Steinberg and C & S in obtaining the franchise, his specific intent thereby to defraud his firm's client of the very economic value his firm had been retained to protect, and his mailing of two letters in furtherance of the fraudulent scheme.

On May 8, 1975, BusTop obtained an interim franchise from the City of New York to build and maintain shelters at bus stops over a three-year period. In the spring of 1977, as the end of the interim franchise was drawing near, BusTop began seeking outside capital with which it could expand its business and improve its chances of persuading the City that a 20-year renewal of its franchise was in order. After extensive negotiations, two venture capital companies, Citicorp Venture Capital Limited (a subsidiary of Citicorp) and Fifty-Third Street Ventures, Inc. (collectively "the investors" or "the minority investors"), tentatively agreed to make a substantial investment in BusTop. On June 1, 1977, the investors contacted Samuel ("Sandy") Lindenbaum, a partner in the Rosenman Colin firm, and retained the firm to advise them in making the investment.

At approximately the same time Jack Bronston, who was then a partner in the Rosenman Colin firm and a state senator from Queens, learned that his friend and client, Saul Steinberg, was also interested in retaining Rosenman Colin to assist him in his efforts to obtain the bus stop shelter franchise. Acting on Steinberg's behalf, Bronston met with Lindenbaum on May 17, 1977, to tell him that Steinberg wanted to retain Rosenman Colin to represent him in his bus stop shelter endeavors, and that he wanted Lindenbaum to appear on his behalf before the Board of Estimate. Lindenbaum immediately declined to undertake the representation, however, because, although BusTop was not itself a client of Rosenman Colin (and the representation of the minority investors had not yet begun), Lindenbaum did not feel he could work against BusTop, in view of his personal friendships with BusTop's public relations consultant and attorney. Despite this reaction from

Page 923

Lindenbaum, Bronston went ahead on Steinberg's behalf and had a Rosenman Colin associate set up a Delaware corporate shell under the name of "Convenience and Safety Corporation," which would serve as Steinberg's vehicle in the bus stop shelter competition. C & S was incorporated on June 2, 1977.

On June 9, 1977, Bronston, by this time aware that Rosenman Colin had been retained as counsel by the BusTop investors, wrote a memorandum to his firm's new business committee, suggesting that the firm take on the representation of C & S

"which will serve as an investment vehicle for the erection of public bus shelters in New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle. This may involve conflict with other clients of the office and should be discussed."

Murray Cohen, a member of the committee, was the first to receive Bronston's memo, and immediately returned it to him with the notation: "We should not do anything further on this until Sandy (Lindenbaum), you and I talk about it. There is a definite conflict." At trial, Cohen testified that at a subsequent meeting with Bronston and Lindenbaum he told Bronston that the firm could not represent C & S because its interests were "inimical" to those of the investors in BusTop. The situation was described by Cohen:

"The investors were proposing to invest, over a period of time, $1,300,000 in BusTop and obviously were counting on BusTop obtaining a renewal of its franchise, and Convenience and Safety was going to be a competitor of BusTop for that franchise and, therefore, if we were successful on behalf of Convenience and Safety, we would have jeopardized the financial investment of the investors in BusTop."

Despite this clear response from Cohen rejecting his proposal that the firm accept the C & S representation, Bronston went back to Cohen on July 5, and proposed that he authorize the establishment of a client billing number for C & S "just in case at some time in the future something developed in which there was not a conflict." Cohen acceded to Bronston's request, but expressly instructed him that no work was to be performed on behalf of C & S without his prior approval. The memorandum written by Bronston to the firm's bookkeeper makes it clear that Bronston understood the very limited nature of Cohen's acquiescence:

"This new matter memorandum has been approved by Murray Cohen subject to the understanding that no further work will be performed on this matter without his explicit consent."

In August, 1977, representation of C & S's effort to acquire the New York City franchise was transferred to the law firm of Stein Rosen & Ohrenstein. 2

Thus, no later than June 9, 1977, the Rosenman Colin firm had made the decision to represent the BusTop investors rather than C & S in the competition for New York City's bus stop shelter franchise, and this decision had been authoritatively communicated to Jack Bronston. For the next two months Rosenman Colin attorneys labored on behalf of the minority investors in negotiating the exact terms of their participation in BusTop. The initial agreement memorializing this participation was signed

Page 924

in the Rosenman Colin offices on August 16, 1977. The agreement provided that the minority investors would make their investment in several stages. The first stage called for the investors to purchase $300,000 worth of secured BusTop notes, which would be converted into stock when and if certain conditions were met, the most important of which was BusTop's obtaining a renewal of the franchise. In later stages, additional investments totaling $1,050,055 would be made. At the time this initial agreement was signed, the parties expected that the Rosenman Colin firm would continue to represent the investors after the signing. Howard Schneider, the Rosenman Colin partner most deeply involved in the investors representation, described the arrangement at trial:

"the clear contemplation of the agreements and of the parties was that there would be a continuation of representation of the investors for the consummation of the transactions that were contemplated by the first financing agreement."

At no time relevant to the indictment in this case did the minority investors cancel the Rosenman Colin representation.

At the same time when these efforts were being made by Rosenman Colin lawyers on behalf of the BusTop investors, Bronston was secretly continuing his relationship with C & S. At the first meeting of C & S's board of directors, on June 17, 1977, Bronston was elected to a one-year term as the corporation's assistant secretary. On 15 separate occasions between August 25, 1977, and February 6, 1978, Bronston met with Steinberg and later filled out time tickets at his law firm indicating that the time spent was billable to C & S. 3 Bronston's time tickets reflected an additional half dozen meetings with other C & S officials during this same period, with the time recorded as billable to C & S.

Despite the fact that the legal representation of C & S's efforts to obtain the New York City franchise was formally transferred to Stein Rosen & Ohrenstein in August, 1977, Bronston continued thereafter to attend meetings at which C & S business in New York was discussed, and was kept informed about the progress of the C & S bid. Important internal documents dealing with the New York bid prepared by C & S or by lawyers for Stein Rosen were routinely sent to Bronston, occasionally by messenger. Finally, the billing records of David Simpson, the Stein Rosen partner principally responsible for the C & S account, indicated that on at least six occasions between December, 1977, and June, 1978, Bronston participated in conference calls or meetings which Simpson billed to C & S.

There was also evidence that, during the period when Bronston was secretly working in the interests of C & S against those of BusTop and his firm's clients, Lindenbaum was meeting with the clients (Venture Capital and Fifty-Third Street Ventures), was actively engaged in negotiating their agreement to invest in BusTop, was unaware of Bronston's activities on behalf of C & S, and was conferring with Bronston with respect to the clients' investment in...

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69 practice notes
  • U.S. v. Coffey, No. 04-CR-651(ILG).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • March 29, 2005
    ...enthusiastically endorse an earlier decision at the margins of the application of the federal fraud statute, United States v. Bronston, 658 F.2d 920 (2d Cir.1981), cert. denied, 456 U.S. 915, 102 S.Ct. 1769, 72 L.Ed.2d 174 (1982), calling it "atypical," it also failed to overrule or undermi......
  • U.S. v. Lemire, Nos. 82-2492
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • November 4, 1983
    ...banc), cert. denied, 445 U.S. 961, 100 S.Ct. 1647, 64 L.Ed.2d 236 (1980). 14 See Ballard, 663 F.2d at 541; cf. United States v. Bronston, 658 F.2d 920 (2d Cir.1981) (upholding mail fraud conviction of a law firm partner who performed legal work for a company to help it obtain a city contrac......
  • U.S. v. Margiotta, No. 1238
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • July 27, 1982
    ...schemes designed to cause losses of an intangible nature clearly come within the terms of the statute. See United States v. Bronston, 658 F.2d 920 (2d Cir. 1981), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 102 S.Ct. 1769, 72 L.Ed.2d 174 (1982). A close reading of the statute supports this result. Section......
  • U.S. v. Asher, Nos. 87-5096
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • July 20, 1988
    ...Cir.1982) (Winter, J., dissenting in part), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 913, 103 S.Ct. 1891, 77 L.Ed.2d 282 (1983); United States v. Bronston, 658 F.2d 920, 930-31 (2d Cir.1981) (Van Graafeiland, J., dissenting), cert. denied, 456 U.S. 915, 102 S.Ct. 1769, 72 L.Ed.2d 174 (1982); Coffee, The Meta......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
69 cases
  • U.S. v. Coffey, No. 04-CR-651(ILG).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • March 29, 2005
    ...enthusiastically endorse an earlier decision at the margins of the application of the federal fraud statute, United States v. Bronston, 658 F.2d 920 (2d Cir.1981), cert. denied, 456 U.S. 915, 102 S.Ct. 1769, 72 L.Ed.2d 174 (1982), calling it "atypical," it also failed to overrule or undermi......
  • U.S. v. Lemire, Nos. 82-2492
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • November 4, 1983
    ...banc), cert. denied, 445 U.S. 961, 100 S.Ct. 1647, 64 L.Ed.2d 236 (1980). 14 See Ballard, 663 F.2d at 541; cf. United States v. Bronston, 658 F.2d 920 (2d Cir.1981) (upholding mail fraud conviction of a law firm partner who performed legal work for a company to help it obtain a city contrac......
  • U.S. v. Margiotta, No. 1238
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • July 27, 1982
    ...schemes designed to cause losses of an intangible nature clearly come within the terms of the statute. See United States v. Bronston, 658 F.2d 920 (2d Cir. 1981), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 102 S.Ct. 1769, 72 L.Ed.2d 174 (1982). A close reading of the statute supports this result. Section......
  • U.S. v. Asher, Nos. 87-5096
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • July 20, 1988
    ...Cir.1982) (Winter, J., dissenting in part), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 913, 103 S.Ct. 1891, 77 L.Ed.2d 282 (1983); United States v. Bronston, 658 F.2d 920, 930-31 (2d Cir.1981) (Van Graafeiland, J., dissenting), cert. denied, 456 U.S. 915, 102 S.Ct. 1769, 72 L.Ed.2d 174 (1982); Coffee, The Meta......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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