I do note the nature of conspiracy charges in this context by this cut and paste from my book (footnotes omitted):
Not surprisingly, therefore, the Government trots out the conspiracy charge whenever it can imagine more than one bad guy behind the tree – it is so easy to do. The conspiracy count allegations are framed as a cascade of allegations telling a damning story (if true and, although literally true, not misleading), but sometimes producing more heat than light. This contrasts with counts for the tax offenses which are dry, sparse, boring, and usually not even flowered up for dramatic effect. The benefits for the Government are great, and the downsides are few; after all, the prosecutors’ life and liberty are not at stake. This means, of course, that the Government’s power to tack on conspiracy charges can be abused, particularly with a weapon as potent and elastic as conspiracy. The Supreme Court has noted that:Addendum on 9/29/11:
We agree that indictments under the broad language of the general conspiracy statute must be scrutinized carefully as to each of the charged defendants because of the possibility, inherent in a criminal conspiracy charge, that its wide net may ensnare the innocent as well as the culpable.
1. In an article today, Lynnley Browning suggests that the superseding indictment's detailed allegations of HSBC employee's skullduggery may be an attempt to ratchet the pressue on HSBC. See Lynnley Browning , UPDATE 1-U.S. client tax indictment raises pressure on HSBC (Reuters 9/29/10) here. She says
The superseding indictment signals a ramping up of pressure on HSBC and could lead to charges against two unnamed bankers listed in the new filing, based on past procedures involving Credit Suisse (CSGN.VX), Switzerland's second-largest bank.2. On the benefits in the actual case of adding a conspiracy charge, I thought I would cut and paste this from an article I wrote (footnotes omitted):
Conspiracy charges are frequent "add-ons" in charging traditional tax crimes to permit the government to increase its chances of obtaining a conviction. Even beyond the considerable elasticity of the conspiracy concept from a substantive perspective, the conspiracy charge offers the government great advantages. The mere charge of "conspiracy" connotes something sinister, and the law treats a conspiracy as a serious criminal act independent of any offense which might be the object of the conspiracy. Moreover, herding a gaggle of defendants [or unindicted co-conspirators] into a single case with an overarching conspiracy charge may make it difficult for the jury to assess independently the guilt or innocence of each defendant [or unindicted co-conspirator] and invite a finding of guilt by association. Conspiracy cases tend to be more complex as the government mounts extensive evidence to connect the dots - real or imagined - among the alleged conspirators, particularly in allegedly large conspiracies such as involved in Stein. Furthermore, the government gets vicarious Pinkerton liability for offenses committed by others in furtherance of the conspiracy, ability to admit statements that would otherwise be inadmissible hearsay, relaxed standard of proof and relevancy, tolling or refreshing of the statute of limitations by remote participants, and venue in remote judicial forums of the government's choosing. With all of these benefits and more, Judge Learned Hand long ago noted, correctly, that conspiracy is the "darling of the modern prosecutor's nursery."