“Behind every great fortune there is a crime.” That is the epigraph to The Godfather, by Mario Puzo. Puzo attributed the quote to Balzac. Balzac was a bit more nuanced: (in translation from the original French):
“The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been found out, because it was properly executed.”
There are great, honest fortunes. But in our world, when the fortune doesn’t add up, the reason is often fraud. False statements, made with the intent to deceive. Innocent reliance on those statements. And a fortune that results from that reliance. When executed artfully, nobody is the wiser.
We love pursuing good fraud claims. Fraud is the crown jewel in business litigation--requiring more exacting evidence and a higher standard of proof--because the penalties can be significant. Where fraud exists, however, the undoing of fortunes built upon lies is a calling, a privilege, and an ethical imperative.
We recently settled a case when we located the notary who notarized a key document signed by the defendant, who had sworn that the document never existed. The notary was a needle in a haystack among the 8.6 million residents of New York. But I wouldn’t trade that moment—when we saw her name in the notary's logbook, along with the title of the document that she had signed—for all of the riches in the world.