Expert Article Library

Expert Mistaken About Legal Standard for Fraud

Case Name: United States v. Wintermute(Click here for the full text of the case)

Court: 8th Circuit Court of Appeals

Date: April 11, 2006

Expert: Industry expert. Paul Schott, Former chief counsel for the Office of Comptroller of Currency from 1987 to 1991

Issue: Whether the District Court properly suppressed testimony from the defendant’s expert in regards to the materiality of the defendant’s alleged misrepresentation?

Summary of case: Defendant was facing criminal charges arising out of false statements made to the government regarding a certain company. She was found guilty for conspiring to make a false statement to a United States and making a false statement to the United States.

Role of the expert: Schott was to testify that the OCC’s failure to take action in regards to certain acts showed that the alleged misrepresentation was not material and would not have affected the decision making process.

Challenges to the Expert's testimony: Assuming that Schott was qualified to be an expert, he misunderstood the appropriate legal standard. In a fraud case the correct standard is not whether the false representation actually succeeded in influencing the OCC, but whether the fraud was capable of influencing the OCC. The proposed testimony was not in line with this standard and would have only misled and confused the jury. The Court of Appeals held that the District Court properly excluded the expert testimony of Schott.

Summary prepared by M. Lanzone, Student, University of California, Hastings College of Law