December 4, 2019

After a six-week trial, client Jean Boustani won acquittal on all charges.

Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP secured a major victory this week in U.S. v. Boustani et al., the securities fraud trial of Privinvest Group executive Jean Boustani in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, over an alleged $2 billion fraud and kickback scheme involving Mozambican state-backed loans. After a six-week trial, the jury announced its verdict on Monday, finding Boustani not guilty on all charges.

Willkie defended Mr. Boustani with a team led by noted white-collar litigation partners Randall Jackson and Michael Schachter, Co-Chair of the White-Collar Defense Practice Group. The team also included associates Casey Donnelly and Philip DiSanto, who led key witness questioning in the trial.

Boustani, a lead salesperson for international shipbuilding company Privinvest, was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud for allegedly defrauding investors, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Willkie argued that Boustani did not defraud any investors, and that he never met or had a relationship to any investor, and that as a Lebanese citizen who had never set foot in the U.S. before he was arrested, the charges and evidence failed to connect him to New York.

The Willkie team deployed a skillful storytelling strategy to explain to the jury that Mr. Boustani’s role as a boat salesman had nothing to do with defrauding highly sophisticated investors. Using real-life anecdotes involving Mr. Schachter’s childhood account of watching David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty “disappear” in 1983 to warn the jury against prosecutorial efforts to misdirect them from the real issues in the case, and Mr. Jackson’s stint as a TGI Fridays waiter and certain of the company’s policies that applied to employees to communicate the distance between Mr. Boustani and the allegedly defrauded investment entities, the litigators provided the jurors with a relatable framework to evaluate the charges and ultimately reject them, exonerating Mr. Boustani.

The trial and acquittal received widespread international media attention, including a prominent feature in The American Lawyer, entitled “Willkie Team Wins Big with Art of Storytelling.” The article highlights the storytelling abilities of Mr. Schachter and Mr. Jackson in their opening and closing arguments, respectively, which incorporated anecdotes that jurors found relatable and that tied together the overarching themes of the case.