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The prosecutors with SAC Capital in their crosshairs

United States Attorney Preet Bharara (R) speaks during a news conference in New York, July 25, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar
United States Attorney Preet Bharara (R) speaks during a news conference in New York, July 25, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar

By Bernard Vaughan and Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - When U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced at a televised press conference on November 4 that Steven A. Cohen's SAC Capital Advisors would plead guilty to insider trading, two prosecutors stood quietly to his right.

In coming weeks those two assistant U.S. attorneys, Antonia Apps and Arlo Devlin-Brown, will get their turn in the spotlight as they prosecute the first two SAC Capital employees to go to trial.

Both Harvard Law School graduates in their 40s, Apps and Devlin-Brown traveled different paths to the Justice Department, where they have employed notably dissimilar styles.

Apps, an Australian native and former national-caliber figure skater in the United States, flipped the usual career trajectory on its head by abandoning a lucrative partnership in private practice to become a government lawyer.

Devlin-Brown, whose understated courtroom demeanor belies his past as a national collegiate debate champion, made his mark by successfully leading the office's 2011 crackdown on online poker companies.

This week, Apps will begin trying the government's case against former SAC fund manager Michael Steinberg, while Devlin-Brown goes to trial in January against another former manager at the hedge fund, Mathew Martoma.

Apps and Devlin-Brown, together with fellow prosecutor John Zach, have led the government's criminal case against SAC Capital, the crown jewel in a broad insider trading probe that has netted 76 individual convictions since 2009.

In addition to its guilty plea, SAC - a Connecticut firm that managed $14 billion before investors began withdrawing their money - will pay $1.2 billion to resolve both criminal and civil claims and wind down its advisory business.

Unlike many criminal prosecutions, complex insider trading cases require more participation from prosecutors earlier in the process, said Doug Leff, an FBI agent who worked on the SAC cases with Apps and Devlin-Brown.

"We have to consult with prosecutors, literally from the opening bell, in order to make sure the facts we're uncovering will support prosecution under an accepted theory of insider trading," said Leff.

'DELIGHTFUL IRON FIST'

Apps, who has been involved in more than 20 insider trading cases, is known as a no-nonsense prosecutor with a courtroom style that leaves little room for levity.

During the 2011 trial of James Fleishman, a former sales representative charged with passing inside information to hedge funds, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff tried to have fun with Apps after she announced she would call a "short witness."

"Five foot eight, or shorter?" asked Rakoff.

"The only way short currently matters, I think, to anyone in the courtroom means short in length of time," Apps replied, before pivoting to another matter.

But former colleagues say that despite that her strict style, Apps is typically upbeat, with a seemingly boundless amount of energy. Chris Todd, a former colleague at the Washington law firm Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, described her as a "delightful iron fist."

After earning law degrees from Harvard and Oxford, Apps worked for three years at the Washington, D.C., law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson before joining Kellogg Huber, where she became a partner in 2001.

Throughout her time in private practice, she continued to compete in figure skating, which she had taken up as a young girl in Australia. In 1997 she placed third at the U.S. national championship for adults.

Former colleagues at both firms said she would wake up before dawn to hit the rink, then put in 15-hour days at the office.

Apps became a U.S. citizen in part so she could apply to work as a federal prosecutor, joining the New York office in 2007. Friends have said her goal from the start was to prosecute securities cases.

AN UNASSUMING DEBATER

In April 2011, on what was dubbed "Black Friday" in online poker circles, the Justice Department announced it had brought money laundering and other charges against 11 people, including the founders of the three largest Internet poker companies in the United States.

Devlin-Brown, who joined the U.S. Attorney's office in 2005 from the law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, led the government's prosecution, which upended the massive online poker market. Last year one firm, PokerStars, agreed to pay $731 million to settle related civil claims against it and Full Tilt Poker, which it absorbed as part of the agreement.

In recent years the Vermont native has worked on his share of insider trading cases, including successful prosecutions against two former SAC employees, Richard Lee and Richard Choo-Beng Lee, and securities analyst Sandeep Aggarwal, all of whom pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the government.

The erstwhile collegiate debater cuts a quiet, unassuming figure in court, several former colleagues and defense lawyers said.

"He's very understated, but that shouldn't fool anyone, as he's a sharp litigator," said Reed Brodsky, a former assistant U.S. attorney who now works for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

Avi Weitzman, another lawyer at Gibson Dunn who worked with Devlin-Brown as a prosecutor on several insider trading investigations, recalled a trial early in Devlin-Brown's career in which he had to cross-examine an older, low-income woman charged with cashing fraudulent checks.

"He eviscerated the defense involving a very sympathetic defendant, and he did so with humor and grace," Weitzman said.

SIGNATURE ISSUE

Six former SAC employees have pleaded guilty to insider trading, helping prosecutors build their case against the hedge fund.

Steinberg, the highest-ranking SAC employee charged so far, goes to trial on Tuesday accused of using tips passed to him by another SAC manager, Jon Horvath, to trade securities of Dell Inc and Nvidia Corp.

Apps will have the benefit of evidence from Horvath, who has cooperated with the government since pleading guilty in September 2012 and is expected to testify.

Apps will face off against Barry Berke, a partner at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, who is representing Steinberg.

For his part, Martoma is accused of using non-public information from Sidney Gilman, a neurologist supervising the clinical trial of a new drug, to trade shares in Elan Corp Plc and Wyeth, which is now part of Pfizer Inc.

Like Horvath, Gilman is cooperating with prosecutors and Devlin-Brown is expected to call him to the stand.

Devlin-Brown's opponent is Richard Strassberg of Goodwin Procter, representing Martoma.

The two trials are the latest insider trading cases in what has become the signature issue for U.S. Attorney Bharara.

SAC Capital's guilty plea on November 8 left open the possibility that Cohen himself could still face charges if warranted, and Bharara has emphasized that the investigation remains active.

"Insider trading prosecutions are to Preet what the mob prosecutions were to Giuliani," Weitzman said, in reference to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who made a name for himself as U.S. Attorney by aggressively going after the mafia.

(Reporting by Bernard Vaughan and Joseph Ax; Editing by Eddie Evans and Douglas Royalty)

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