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Howard Cooper, Benjamin Wish obtain dismissal of federal criminal case

Howard M. Cooper and Benjamin Wish obtained a dismissal of all criminal charges against their clients in U.S. District Court in Boston involving "double-breasted" businesses and contributions to a pension fund.

In a highly unusual outcome, the government agreed to dismiss all embezzlement and mail fraud charges involving the firm's clients, a New Hampshire-based asbestos removal company and its owner.   A related company agreed to plead guilty to the charges and make a restitution payment of $500,000, less than 25 percent of the alleged amount at issue.

The case involved complex issues as to whether a non-union employer that operates a so-called "double-breasted" business, where the non-union company is paired with a union company, is obligated to make pension fund contributions to the Massachusetts Laborers Benefits Funds in certain circumstances.

Chief Judge Patti B. Saris continually expressed skepticism about whether the government's case should have ever been brought.  She commented, "I hope I don't see another one of these [double-breasting prosecutions]. Double-breasting," she explained, "is completely legal under the laws of this circuit so long as there is no fraud, and … if there are gray areas, it should be the matter of collective bargaining and not something fought out through a federal criminal case."

"We are extremely pleased with the result," Mr. Wish said.  "As the court stated, this is a very confusing and gray area of law, such that it should be a matter for negotiation between unions and employers, not for a criminal case."

Mr. Cooper, a Founding Partner of Todd & Weld LLP, regularly handles white collar criminal cases from the internal investigation stage through trial and appeal.  Mr. Wish concentrates his practice on white collar criminal defense, as well as complex commercial litigation, shareholder disputes, and real estate litigation.