Stoker jury acquits, but not quietly

Aug. 4, 2012 at 9:30 AM
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NEW YORK, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- Jurors in a trial against a Citigroup executive in New York are rallying behind the regulators who did not win the case.

The jury acquitted Citigroup executive Brian Stoker, who was propped up as a key player in Citigroup's securities bundling schemes.

The bank assembled complicated collateralized debt obligation deals which they sold without telling buyers the bank had helped select the securities and was, not incidentally, making proprietary bets that these securities would decline in value, The New York Times reported Saturday.

However, as the jury voted to acquit, they also stuffed a message in the envelope that held the verdict that was handed to the judge -- in this case U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff.

It was a one-sentence message written by jury foreman Beau Brendler that said: "This verdict should not deter the Securities and Exchange Commission from continuing to investigate the financial industry, review current regulations and modify existing regulations as necessary."

Since the trial ended July 31, Brendler has continued to opine.

"I wanted to know why the bank's chief executive officer wasn't on trial. Citigroup's behavior was appalling," the Times quoted Brendler as saying.

The jury said the SEC did not prove its case and that Stoker had done what his bosses had ordered him to do. They saw him as a scapegoat for the 2008 financial crisis that upended the economy.

At least one juror bought into the defense's "Where's Waldo?" argument that held that Stoker was just one banker in a large crowd of bankers and to pick one out of the crowd would be an injustice.

"Stoker structured a deal that his bosses told him to structure, so why didn't they go after the higher-ups rather than a fall guy?" juror Travis Dawson asked.

Dawson, who lives in the Bronx, also said: "Where I'm from, you hear Wall Street is an evil place but you really have nothing to base that on. But after sitting on the jury I thought, 'Wow, greedy, reckless behavior really does happen there.'"

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