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Philly stint Served Prosecutor Well in Mark Cuban case

Your Money: Mark Cuban’s prosecutor

When she prosecuted billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban in court last month for alleged insider trading, government attorney Jan Folena drew on many tough lessons she learned in Philadelphia.

 

Jan Folena tried Mark Cuban´s trading case.
Jan Folena tried Mark Cuban’s trading case.

Folena worked as an assistant district attorney under Lynne M. Abraham, Philadelphia’s longest-serving district attorney. Now Folena is a supervisor and litigation counsel in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement here.She joined Abraham’s office in 1993, fresh out of law school at Syracuse University.

“I had ties to Philly, since I rowed high school crew on the Schuylkill,” said Folena, a Nutley, N.J., native. “I knew the city, it had a cool feel, personality, and attitude.”

After law school, where Beau Biden, now Delaware attorney general, was her classmate, Folena moved here, knowing Philadelphia had “big crime and big problems,” she said.

“The mayor was Ed Rendell, who had also been D.A., and Arlen Specter also had been D.A. So they had a fine tradition of folks who ran that office,” Folena said. “The [assistant district attorneys] in that office were some of the best lawyers I have ever worked with. They were fighters.” She spent four years as an assistant district attorney.

In 2007, after a stint at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in Washington, she went to the SEC’s trial unit, working big, high-level cases. Her first assignment was prosecuting two inhouse lawyers for Enron.

“My main witness was supposed to be [chief financial officer] Andrew Fastow,” who was already in jail, Folena said. She drove to his prison camp to meet him. “Luckily, there was not much I hadn’t seen in Philly already,” she said.

The Enron experience prepared her for the Cuban case, one of her “most complex and unique cases,” she said. “Not many defendants are as high-profile. Celebrity cases change a lot of things. But I tried the case as if he were just an ordinary person.”

An added challenge was that Cuban was being tried in his hometown of Dallas, where he is a local hero and philanthropist and colorful owner of the Mavericks of the NBA.

“We had to be aware people in Dallas like this guy,” Folena said. “But this case was about keeping the markets fair. That’s the message in every insider-trading case. Investors don’t want to participate in a market where certain investors benefit from information that ordinary investors do not have.

“The insider-trading laws apply to everyone – including Mark Cuban.”

Folena was supervisor of the Cuban case for a year before the trial.

“I just believed in the case. That’s very important. I learned that in Philly,” she said. “If you don’t believe in the case, nobody else will.”

Folena and the SEC lost the case against Cuban. A seven-woman, two-man panel decided Cuban did not sell stock in a search-engine company because he had inside information from its CEO. But Folena will keep trying cases.

“I’m good at it and I like being in the courtroom,” she said.

Folena’s dream job? Possibly NFL commissioner, she joked.

She will have to hope Cuban doesn’t buy a football team.

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