The United States Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in a white-collar crime case over a jury's 2011 conviction of Florida fisherman John Yates. The government charged Mr. Yates under the "anti-shredding" provision of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley law. The provision penalizes the destruction or concealment of "a tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct or influence" a government investigation. Most of us are familiar with this law as being intended to prevent fraud of the sort committed by companies such as Enron Corp and WorldCom Inc.
What damning evidence did Mr. Yates attempt to destroy or conceal, you ask? Fish. Yes, that’s right, fish. According to prosecutors in Florida, Mr. Yates threw undersized fish overboard after federal and state officials measured the fish on his boat.
At his trial, a crewmember testified that Yates had told crew members to throw the undersized fish overboard and replace them with others. Based on the undisputed evidence that Yates tossed the fish overboard, he was convicted under the “anti-shredding” provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley law. Yates appealed, and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction, finding in part that a fish fit within the definition of a "tangible object." Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. Who said white-collar-crimes aren’t fun? The case is United States v. Yates, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-7451.