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United States v. Gerardo A.

July 24, 1964


Author: Moore

Before WATERMAN, MOORE and FRIENDLY, Circuit Judges.

MOORE, Circuit Judge:

Gerardo A. Re, also known as Jerry A. Re (hereinafter Re, Sr.), his son Gerard F. Re (hereinafter Re, Jr.), Charles A. Casagrande, also known as Charles A. Grande (hereinafter Grande) and Ely Batkin appeal from judgments of conviction entered after a jury trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The case went to the jury after a ten-week trial on three counts of the original eight count indictment*fn1 Count one charged appellants Re, Sr., Re, Jr., Grande and Batkin and defendants Lowell M. Birrell, Jacob Yaffe and Verna Skoglund with conspiracy to violate specified sections of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934*fn2 by using facilities of interstate commerce to sell unregistered stock of Swan-Finch Oil Corporation, to employ fraudulent methods in such sales, and to create the false appearance of an active Swan-Finch market on the American Stock Exchange. Count two charged that Re, Sr., Re, Jr., Birrell and Grande unlawfully made use of the facilities of the American Stock Exchange to sell 8,900 unregistered shares of Swan-Finch in violation of 15 U.S.C.A. § 77e (a) (1), 77x and 18 U.S.C.A. § 2. Count three charged that Batkin and Yaffe violated the same statutes in causing the mails to be used in the sale of 200 unregistered shares of Swan-Finch. The case against defendant Birrell, then a fugitive, was severed, and a judgment of acquittal was directed as to Verna Skoglund at the end of the Government's case. The jury found that remaining defendants guilty on each of the counts in which they were named. Yaffe, who was given a one year suspended sentence, has not appealed. Grande appeals only from his conviction on count two.


Since the sufficiency of the evidence on the conspiracy count is conceded, it will suffice to sketch in broad outline the activities in which the jury could have found appellants to have been engaged. The Government's case centered on the stock market enterprises of defendant Birrell, who from 1954 until 1957 had engineered the sale of more than 800,000 unregistered shares of Swan-Finch stock while simultaneously manipulating its price on the American Stock Exchange. The Government sought to prove that Re, Sr. and Re, Jr., who functioned as "specialists"*fn3 in Swan-Finch and other stocks on the American Exchange, were instrumental in the market manipulation of Swan-Finch stock and distributed the major portion of Birrell's Swan-Finch stock by way of a network of twenty-one brokerage accounts. Grande was a longtime friend of the Res, and accounts in his name were among those used by them in the distribution. Batkin was the undisclosed principal in Sinclair Securities, an over-the-counter brokerage firm also deeply involved in the Swan-Finch distribution.

In so far as the conspiracy and substantive counts charged the unlawful sale of unregistered securities, 15 U.S.C.A. §§ 77e (a) (1), 77x, 18 U.S.C.A. § 2, the Government proceeded on the theory that appellants knowingly participated in the sale of "control" stock which emanated from Birrell. Briefly, the Securities Act of 1933 proscribes the sale of unregistered stock by an "underwriter," i.e., one who provides an outlet for the stock of an "issuer." See United States v. Dardi, 330 F.2d 316, 325 (2d Cir. 1964); United States v. Crosby, 294 F.2d 928, 939-40 (2d Cir. 1961), cert. denied sub nom. Mittleman v. United States, 368 U.S. 984, 82 S. Ct. 599, 7 L. Ed. 2d 523 (1962). The relationship between Birrell (the "issuer") and appellants (the "underwriters"), therefore, was basic to the Government's proof.

Market Manipulation

Birrell acquired control of Swan-Finch*fn4 in May, 1954 and immediately committed 10,000 Swan-Finch shares to Re, Sr. and Grande by way of a three-month call. Within two months he had arranged to have the Res appointed specialists. Although it had been long dorment, Swan-Finch stock soon began a rather spectacular market rise.The Government's explanation of this sudden and uncalled for enthusiasm was that as specialists the Res knew exactly how much stock to buy or sell in order to raise or lower the market. With the Res' help, Birrell could control the price at will. There was also evidence that this manipulation extended to other stocks whose market performance was closely tied with that of Swan-Finch.

In June and July, 1956, Sidney Barkley and Charles Rosenthal, undisclosed principals in the over-the-counter brokerage firm of I. F. Stillman & Co., agreed with Birrell to enter the market rigging operation. The Stillman firm, which engaged in so-called "boiler-room" sales tactics, was to support the Swan-Finch market on the Exchange with buy orders and later to sell the stock thus acquired over-the-counter. For this service, Birrell made "under-the-table" cash payments. Since the Stillman sales campaign depended largely on the closing price, Re, Sr. agreed to advise Barkley and Rosenthal of any increased selling so that Stillman could absorb the supply. Re, Sr. was also to tell Barkley and Rosenthal what was "on the book" so that they would know exactly how much to purchase to raise the price on any particular day*fn5 If Stillman & Co. was unable to meet the sell orders, it was understood that Re, Sr. would make the purchases required to maintain the desired market level. On at least one occasion, Re, Sr., Barkley and Birrell met to review the Swan-Finch rigging operation. Barkley testified that Re, Sr., annoyed by Birrell's failure to deliver some stock, exclaimed that he did not care what happened to Birrell's market. Barkley interjected that he could not afford a market drop since his customers would refuse to pay if the market fell. Birrell was able to reassure Re, Sr. that the stock would be forthcoming and Re, Sr. seemed appeased. On one other occasion, Birrell told Re, Sr. to buy a large block of stock rather than let Swan-Finch suffer a drop in price.

The Distribution

While the market rigging continued with full vigor, the Res, Grande and Batkin were engaged in distributing Birrell's Swan-Finch stock. When Birrell acquired control in 1954, there were 34,794 shares of common stock outstanding. However, through a series of issuances and a three-for-one stock split, there were in excess of 2.8 million shares outstanding by January 15, 1957. Appellants participated in the distribution of approximately 800,000 of the more than 1 million shares which came to be controlled by Birrell. None of this Swan-Finch stock was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.).

The Res' distribution of over 600,000 shares of Birrell's Swan-Finch on the American Exchange was accomplished by means of twenty-one stock accounts maintained at three brokerage houses.Nineteen of these accounts, according to the Government, were opened, controlled and managed exclusively by the Res and they controlled the Swan-Finch activity in two others. Accounts opened in Grande's name were the vehicles by which a total of 498,500 shares were distributed; other accounts, maintained in the names of relatives and friends of the Res and Birrell or controlled by Birrell, were employed for the sale of an additional 117,700 shares. Accounts maintained by the Res began to sell Birrell's stock the day they became specialists in Swan-Finch. Generally, they would sell shares from an account of their choice and then, to cover the sale, cause stock to be delivered to that account from a Birrell-controlled source at a price below the market. There was evidence that the floor partner for Josephthal & Co., where the substantial Grande accounts were maintained, gave the Res orders on a "not held" basis which permitted them to exercise discretion in their execution*fn6

The Res' distribution on the Exchange was augmented by the over-the-counter sales of three firms: I. F. Stillman & Co., L. S. Mack & Co., and Sinclair Securities Corporation. Barkley and Rosenthal (I. F. Stillman & Co.) successfully "boiler-roomed" approximately 70,000 Swan-Finch shares which they had acquired on the Exchange in co-operation with the Res and Birrell. Birrell supplied stock to L. S. Mack & Co. at $5.00 per share and also gave Lloyd Mack, the firm's principal, an under-the-table cash payment based on the price at which Mack was able to sell to the public. Birrell chose the "S & C Trading Co., Inc.," to camouflage his transactions with Mack, which eventually accounted for the sale of 21,925 shares.

The most effective participant in the over-the-counter distribution was Sinclair Securities. While ostensibly owned and managed by defendant Yaffe, the Government's proof readily allowed the inference that appellant Batkin was an undisclosed owner and that he actively engaged in Sinclair's sales of Swan-Finch. Although most of the 197,608 shares sold by Sinclair were obtained from Birrell, the books of Sinclair indicated fictitious sources. Batkin and Yaffe, along with the Res and the other participants in the distribution, received surreptitious cash payments from Birrell.

On this appeal, appellants urge that their convictions must be reversed on a variety of grounds. They attack the relevant provisions of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 as vague and indefinite, and argue as well that the floor of the American Stock Exchange is not a means of communication in interstate commerce. Errors arising from the conduct of the trial are said to include the admission of hearsay business records and the Government's knowing use of the testimony of a witness who was then the client of an attorney who had earlier represented the Res. Re, Jr. and Grande challenge their convictions on count two on the ground that the Government failed to prove that they had anything to do with the sale alleged. In a similar vein, Batkin contends that there was no proof that the 200 shares described in count three were in fact "control" shares; in addition he argues that he was denied a fair trial due to the admission of inculpatory testimony of the Res and Grande before the S.E.C.


Evidence of cash payments in substantial amounts was an important element in the Government's proof that appellants Re, Sr., Re, Jr., Batkin and other defendants were intimately allied with Birrell in the unlawful distribution and market manipulation. Although there was much additional proof to the same effect, the so-called "DeRisi" records were an important factor in establishing Birrell's payments to the alleged co-conspirators. Appellants claim that these records constituted hearsay and that their introduction into evidence was reversible error.

Joseph DeRisi was employed by Birrell as his bookkeeper from 1952 until 1958. At all times he took his orders directly from Birrell and worked without other supervision. He was chiefly concerned with keeping the books related to various corporations and personal bank accounts, all of which were controlled by Birrell. At trial, the Government's proof focused on the cash disbursement books of four of these accounts, those entitled "Birrell & Larson," "Harry Workman," "Ernest Espinosa" and "A. Hector Rivero." In connection with the many checks drawn on these accounts payable only to "cash," DeRisi's records showed notations which purported to identify the recipients. When totalled it was ...

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