As the recent economic crisis has shown, individuals are not the only victims of financial crimes. Corporations, hedge funds, private equity companies, pension funds, nonprofit organizations and other entities can stand to lose millions of dollars through fraud, embezzlement and other criminal acts. The proceeds of financial crimes are often long gone or, where they have not yet been spent, the government increasingly seeks to forfeit these proceeds as ill-gotten gains.
Civil litigation against the wrongdoer may be an option, but litigation is a long, costly process that is not effective when the perpetrator of a crime will be stripped of all assets as part of a criminal sentence. Restitution, whereby a person convicted of a crime is ordered to return any stolen or fraudulently obtained property to victims, is mandatory in criminal cases, but where determining restitution is too complex and burdensome, the requirement to determine and award restitution to victims may be excused. In such instances, victims of crime and innocent third parties may have a means of seeking relief through the forfeiture process. But because such relief may be subject to prosecutorial discretion, individuals or companies seeking recovery through forfeiture must be prepared to act quickly and make a compelling case.