Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day three of Bruno trial

It's day three in the federal corruption trial of former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

Francis Collins, Bruno's former counsel, and currently a state Court of Claims judge, wrapped up his testimony this morning. He repeatedly stated he wasn't responsible for advising Bruno about financial disclosure forms.

The trial's fourth witness, Helen George, then took the stand. George, who worked as internal legal counsel at Wright Investors' Service, a Connecticut-based investment advisor that employed Bruno for a dozen years starting in 1994, was granted immunity for her testimony. Being granted immunity means the witness can't be prosecuted for their testimony. Only if charged with perjury would the immunity privilege be waived.

From 1994 to 1998, Bruno worked for Wright as a independent consultant. From 1998 until 2006, he was a part-time employee. For those dozen years, said George, Bruno functioned as an introducer – someone who met with potential clients, in this case union pension funds, and recommended they give Wright the power to invest their money.

A 1994 letter from the company to Bruno laid out his duties as well as disclosure requirements. Each potential client was to be informed of Bruno's affiliation with Wright. Before an investment contract was signed, a disclosure letter had to be sent to the client. According to George, she looked for but didn't find completed disclosure forms in Wright's files.

George admitted some pension fund trustees raised objections to signing the disclosure form because they didn't like working with referral agents in general. To the best of her knowledge, it was nothing to do with Joe Bruno specifically.

UPDATE: 7:08 P.M.
George acknowledged learning in a conversation with Francis Collins that the Legislative Ethics Committee had approved Bruno's job with Wright Investors' Service. However, she never received a written letter confirming such. She said she was "surprised" there was no letter. George testified that Frank Gluchowski, a lawyer for the Legislative Ethics Committee and later the legislative counsel to the Senate majority, recommended not issuing a letter because he thought it would "raise more questions than it answered."

Wednesday's other witnesses included former New York Sun reporter Bill Hammond and former Bruno press secretary Marsha White, among others. For details of their testimony, be sure to check out the next edition of The Legislative Gazette on Nov. 10.

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