A WilmerHale legal team won an extraordinary victory when the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency took the extremely rare step of voluntarily dismissing its own charges with prejudice after a years-long enforcement effort. On July 7, 2021, the agency dropped its case against Rohan Ramchandani, a WilmerHale client and former foreign currency trader.
In no small part due to the effective and sustained defense work of WilmerHale lawyers representing Mr. Ramchandani, including Partners Heather Nyong’o and Thomas Mueller, the OCC issued a notice of withdrawal of its charges against Mr. Ramchandani. The OCC’s action was the long-sought vindication of Mr. Ramchandani’s and his lawyers’ position that he was innocent of the accusations the OCC leveled against him.
The OCC charged Mr. Ramchandani in 2017 with “recklessly unsafe or unsound” conduct and of “breach[ing] his fiduciary duties” to his then-employer, a global financial institution. The allegations were based on his participation in an electronic chat room with other forex traders in which they traded and shared market information, a common industry practice at the time. The OCC sought not just to ban Mr. Ramchandani from working for any entity it regulates but to impose a $5 million fine.
The OCC’s charges followed the indictment on federal criminal antitrust charges of three London-based traders, including Mr. Ramchandani, who the government alleged had referred to themselves as “the Cartel.” They were charged with using their chatroom to fix prices in the forex market between 2007 and 2013. The OCC’s enforcement efforts were stayed pending the criminal trial.
In October 2018, a federal jury swiftly acquitted Mr. Ramchandani and his fellow defendants following a trial at which the defense, with Ms. Nyong’o leading in the courtroom, successfully persuaded jurors that Mr. Ramchandani’s conduct did not violate the Sherman Antitrust Act.
But Mr. Ramchandani’s acquittal on criminal charges did not end the OCC’s enforcement action. Indeed, the agency seemed undeterred, reinitiating its case in early 2020 and setting in motion more than a year of discovery.
Furthermore, the Department of Justice litigated to prevent Mr. Ramchandani from using in his OCC proceeding exculpatory evidence that had already been publicly aired as exhibits in the criminal trial in which he was acquitted. In January 2021, the strenuous efforts of Mr. Ramchandani’s legal team to gain access to this evidence paid off when US District Judge Richard M. Berman ruled that he could indeed use in the OCC proceeding the criminal trial exhibits.
“It cannot be overstated how big and unusual a win this is,” said Ms. Nyong’o. “It is almost unheard of for the OCC to dismiss charges in a case it has invested so much time and energy in.”
At the time she learned of the OCC’s dismissal of charges, Ms. Nyong’o and the other members of the legal team were preparing to file a summary judgment motion, as well as a motion to exclude the OCC’s expert witnesses, that would have exposed the weakness of the agency’s claims. “We think they wanted to avoid the public airing of all of this,” Ms. Nyong’o said. Mr. Mueller concurred, stating, “We are relieved and gratified that Rohan’s OCC nightmare has finally ended. We only wish it had come sooner.”
“I cannot thank enough my remarkable lawyers at WilmerHale who were simply brilliant in their determination and skill in defending me in both the OCC proceeding and criminal trial,” Mr. Ramchandani said. “Knowing that I had the best of the best on my side helped me and my family endure the difficulties of these past several years and gave me confidence that we would ultimately prevail.”
In addition to Ms. Nyong’o and Mr. Mueller, Mr. Ramchandani’s WilmerHale legal team included Partner Franca Harris Gutierrez; Counsels Daniel Crump, Justin Baxenberg, and Renita Khanduja; Senior Associate Lauren Ige; Associate Ryan Corriveau; and Senior Paralegal Stan Maderich.