Visuals Help Jury Understand Accounting, Find Koenig Liable

More than six months of collaboration between attorneys from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and The Focal Point LLC, an Oakland, Calif.-based litigation strategy and graphics firm, was successfully concluded when a Chicago jury, on June 29, found James Koenig, former chief financial officer of Waste Management Inc., liable for falsifying accounts while engaging in “massive financial fraud” totaling $1.7 billion, between 1992 and 1997.

“This was the first billion-dollar-plus financial fraud case in SEC history, and it was critical that the jury be able to understand complicated, high-level accounting processes,” Andy Springler, founder and CEO of The Focal Point, explains in a prepared statement. “Jurors needed to visualize what should have happened versus what actually happened.”

Chris Ritter, a partner and leader of The Focal Point trial team adds, “Because of the complex concepts in this case, we held a day-long session with the legal team to develop the key themes and framework to ultimately present to the jury. We call this approach Mental Mining. It’s a process that helps attorneys identify the salient points of a case and the potential conscious and subconscious responses of a jury to those facts. We knew that the images, analogies and metaphors – both verbal and visual – were going to be key factors.”

SEC attorneys and Focal Point strategists worked together to refine the trial’s opening statements, simplify complex accounting practices through more than 150 visual displays and summarize the 11 weeks of trial testimony in closing statements. Samples of the visuals developed and used at trial can be found on the Recent Cases page in the News section of The Focal Point’s web site at www.thefocalpoint.com.

The Focal Point has worked with trial lawyers in courtrooms throughout the United States in more than 1,000 civil and criminal cases since 1989.

Chris Ritter is the author of Creative Winning Trial Strategies and Graphics, recently published by the American Bar Association (ABA).

You may like these other stories...

Scott London, a former senior audit partner at KPMG LLP, was sentenced to 14 months in federal prison on Thursday for providing inside information about several of his firm’s clients to a friend, who used it to make at...
By Teresa Ambord, Correspondent You'd think a man who masterminded the biggest Ponzi scheme in history would have ice water in his veins. The name Bernard Madoff has become synonymous with investment scams after his...
By Ken Berry In a new case decided by the US Supreme Court, the remnants of a tax shelter partially constructed by wily Texas billionaire Billy Joe McCombs - known informally as "Red" - collapsed like a house...

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Jul 31
In this session Excel expert David Ringstrom helps beginners get up to speed in Microsoft Excel. However, even experienced Excel users will learn some new tricks, particularly when David discusses under-utilized aspects of Excel.
Aug 5
This webcast will focus on accounting and disclosure policies for various types of consolidations and business combinations.
Aug 20
In this session we'll review best practices for how to generate interest in your firm’s services.
Aug 21
Meet budgets and client expectations using project management skills geared toward the unique challenges faced by CPAs. Kristen Rampe will share how knowing the keys to structuring and executing a successful project can make the difference between success and repeated failures.