Justice Official Reiterates: Civil Trials Can Come First

May 12 2010 | 12:49pm ET

It’s not a policy change, but it’s certainly a topic of conversation for members of the U.S. Dept. of Justice. For the second time in a week, a department official has said the days of criminal trials invariably preceding Securities and Exchange Commission civil trials are over.

This time, it was Deputy Assistant Attorney General Greg Andres, who told the American Bar Association Internal Corporate Investigations Forum, “It’s not clear anymore with the civil proceedings that you’re going to secure a stay.”

Andres’ words come after Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer—Andres’ boss—made the same point, noting that judges are increasingly wary of always granting precedence to a criminal trial.

The matter most recently came to a head over the Galleon Group insider-trading trial. U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, who is overseeing the civil trial of Galleon founder Raj Rajaratnam and former New Castle Partners executive, reluctantly agreed to postpone that trial until after the criminal trial—which begins in October—and only because of a continuing dispute over the wiretaps at the heart of the case.

While the new order does not represent official policy at either the Justice Dept. or SEC, Andres said it was not necessarily a bad thing for civil cases to come before criminal ones.

“There are persuasive reasons why criminal authorities should not reflexively ask for a stay,” he said.

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