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Licensed to Lie Summary

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Licensed to Lie PDF Summary

Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice

Justice is blind.

Unfortunately – most of the time, it is to the truth.

And Sidney Powell uncovers why – because the guys entrusted with it are:

Licensed to Lie.

Who Should Read “Licensed to Lie”? And Why?

Licensed to Lie is a book for everyone who is proud of the American criminal justice system: if this one doesn’t burst your bubble, you are not interested in facts.

It is even more about those who think that we have gone astray: treat yourself with “a disturbing, enlightening, and superbly presented account of one of the most dramatic and chilling examples of injustice in American judicial history.” (Michael Adams, Ph.D.)

About Sidney Powell

Sidney Powell

Sidney Powell was an Assistant United States Attorney in three judicial districts under 9 United States Attorneys from both political parties.

The youngest Assistant U.S. Attorney at the beginning of her practice, Powell has represented private parties in 150 criminal appeals and the United States in about two times as that, resulting in more than 180 published decisions. She

Past president of the Bar Association for the Fifth Federal Circuit and the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, Powell is an elected member of the American Law Institute.

Find out more at https://licensedtolie.com/.  

“Licensed to Lie PDF Summary”

Licensed to Lie is a sort of an autobiography by Sidney Powell, chronicling her loss of trust in the American justice system as witnessed by her firsthand during the trial of Jim Brown, an executive of Merrill Lynch, wrongly charged with assisting Enron in an accounting fraud.

And that’s merely the tip of the iceberg.

The Ultimate Toll

The story opens on September 26, 2010, on a typical autumn day in Washington, DC, during the season for “apples, sweaters, sweatshirts, and football games.”

Nick Marsh

Inside a completely unremarkable cottage located on 8th Street Northwest, a guy named Nick Marsh decides that he is not that interested in watching football games anymore; so, around 2:00 PM, Nick takes a loose razor blade and slashes his left wrist; then he slashes his right.

Even though he feels faint and nauseous and is bleeding profusely, he is not sure that he has done enough damage; bleeding across the basement floor, he finds a power cord, ties it into a noose and hangs himself.

Even that is not enough: a few moments later, his wife finds him unconscious, bleeding, and hanging by the power cord, and calls 911.

They arrive too late: at around 2:30 PM, a DC coroner pronounces the 37-year-old Nick Marsh dead from asphyxiation.

Ted Stevens

Six weeks earlier, on August 9, 2010, former Senator Ted Stevens boards “a single-engine amphibious de Havilland DHC-3 Otter airplane for a day of Alaska’s finest fishing.”

Unfortunately, the plane never arrives at its final location: it crashes into a slope of a heavily forested mountainside.

Out of the nine people on board, five die, and four – including former NASA Chief Sean O’Keefe and his son Kevin – survive.

Unfortunately, Ted Stevens is not among the latter.

The Link

To anyone who watches the news from time to time and is older than 20, Ted Stevens is much more than just another name.

Because the breaking news that fateful evening of August 9 back in 2010 ran something like this over every single channel in the entire country:


However, during the two years preceding this accident, Ted Stevens was somewhat less than beloved – even in his very own Alaska where he was considered all but a legend for most of his life.

One of the longest-serving U.S. Senator in history, Stevens was found guilty of all seven counts of making false statements (failing to report gifts properly) on October 27, 2008.

Just eight days later, Stevens was defeated by Mark Begich for the Senate seat by no more than 3,724 votes.

However, just a few months later, an FBI agent by the name of Chad Joy suggested that FBI agents and prosecutors may have intentionally withheld and concealed evidence which could have resulted in a “not guilty” verdict for Stevens.

It turned out that Joy was right: “the prosecutors from the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice had broken ethical rules,” reminds us Powell, “disregarded court orders, and violated constitutional law while they hid evidence favorable to his defense—called ‘Brady material.’”

Ted Stevens’ death renewed interest in both fabricating evidence and the prosecutorial and government misconduct during his trial.

And where’s Nick Marsh in the story?

You’ve guessed it alright:

He was one of the prosecutors in the elite Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division of the US Department of Justice.

The Enron Debacle and the Arthur Andersen Conviction

Hold your horses:

Licensed to Lie is not a book about Ted Stevens or Nick Marsh, and despite the thriller-like beginning, it is both much profound and, thus, inevitably more boring than a John Grisham novel.

However, much like Grisham’s only non-fiction book, it is about a pattern of injustice and government misconduct which may have cost the lives and the sanity of thousands and thousands of people.

In fact, after the first chapter, Licensed to Lie delves deep into a long 200-page analysis of the Enron disaster of the 1990s, and particularly the prosecution of one Jim Brown of Merrill Lynch.


Well, because Powell was tasked with representing Brown in his post-trial defense.


By now, you certainly know a lot about the amazing rise and scandalous fall of Enron.

America’s Most Innovative Company for six consecutive years, Enron was a giant in the energy business, employing over 30,000 people and claiming revenues of over $100 billion during 2000, the last year of its existence.

So, what happened?

The Enron scandal did, during which it was discovered that Enron’s financial condition didn’t really align with the actual facts.

And you know that this is a subtle euphemism for fraud; systematic, creative and institutionalized fraud.

However, asks Sidney Powell, do you know that almost every Enron-related conviction which has gone up on appeal has resulted in a complete or partial reversal?

Wait… what?


Arthur Andersen

Take Arthur Andersen, for example.

The only American company in the “Big Five” accounting firms – along with Netherlands-based KPMG and the British giants Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Ernst & Young) – back in 2001, Arthur Andersen was one of the world’s largest multinational companies.

Unfortunately, it was also the firm in charge of the Enron audit.

The result?

On June 15, 2002, Andersen was convicted of obstruction of justice: Nancy Temple (from Andersen’s legal department) and David Duncan (lead partner for the Enron account) had apparently ordered the shredding of Enron-related documents.

Despite employing close to 85,000 people, since the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission doesn’t accept audits from convicted felons, the company had to be closed soon afterward.

And then, three years later in the case of Arthur Andersen LLP v. United States, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously reversed the conviction due to serious errors in the trial judge’s jury instructions.

Apparently, hungry for a conviction, the prosecutors had pieced together parts of different statutes to fabricate a crime and purged criminal intent from the jury instructions.

What about all those jobs, you ask?

Well, that’s what Powell is interested in as well.

Enron and Merrill Lynch’s Best Efforts Agreement

Because while representing Jim Brown of Merrill Lynch, Powell had to deal with the very same pattern.

And it all started with a relatively small business transaction between the two conglomerates at year-end 1999: Merrill Lynch entered into a “best efforts” agreement with Enron over some Nigerian barges.

Better put, “Enron solicited – indeed pushed and cajoled – Merrill Lynch to invest $7 million cash to purchase a minority equity interest in a company that would profit from three electrical power barges stationed off the coast of Nigeria.”

Now, Enron held the majority interest and controlled the barge project. Supposedly, it had sent the barges to the Nigerian coast “to help the war-torn country with emergency electrical power” at the request from the US State Department.

On December 23, 1999, there was “a five-minute telephone conversation between Andrew Fastow (Enron’s chief financial officer), Jeff McMahon (Enron’s treasurer), Daniel Bayly of Merrill Lynch, and several others – but not Jim Brown.”

During this conversation, Fastow ensured McMahon that it “would use its best efforts and continue the process it had already started to remarket Merrill’s interest in the barges to another party within six months.”  

This was great, since, as Bayly made clear to Fastow, Merrill did not want to hold its equity in these barges very long.

Jim Brown’s and Merrill Lynch’s Crime

The prosecutors, however – Andrew Weissman, Kathryn Ruemmler, Matthew Friedrich, and John Hemann – saw something much deeper and more sinister beneath this agreement.

According to them:

The Merrill executives committed a crime because McMahon had ‘guaranteed’ that Enron would buy back the barges, and Fastow ratified that guarantee in ‘code’ during that five-minute telephone conversation. The linchpin of the prosecution was the prosecutors’ claim that McMahon and Fastow made a guarantee to buy back the barges from Merrill, which made Enron’s accounting wrong. The prosecutors said the sale of equity in the barges was a ‘sham’ – a loan and not a sale, so Enron could not legitimately book a ‘gain.’ Therefore. these Merrill executives were criminally responsible for ‘cooking Enron’s books’ and ‘depriving Enron of the honest services of Andrew Fastow.’

For Weissman, Ruemmler, Friedrich & Hemann “it didn’t matter that none of the Merrill defendants personally profited from this transaction. It didn’t matter that none engaged in any conduct that they thought was unlawful.” And it didn’t even matter that some people such as Jim Brown were not present during the phone call.

Simply put, all it mattered to them was that there was some kind of a conspiracy based on nothing more but a possible (and never proven) “secret oral side deal that Enron guaranteed to buy back the barges.”

This negated even the fact that the Merrill Lynch corporate counsel had approved the transaction: the prosecutors claimed that the Merrill executives had lied to their own lawyers and kept them in the dark about the real deal, the one not in writing.


Do you even have to ask?

We started with a suicide and a lost election; we end, retroactively with hundreds of thousands of people left jobless, and the lives of quite a few innocent people irretrievably ruined.

And what about the prosecutors?

Well, you already know everything about two of them.

Kathryn Ruemmler, for example, who “plainly suppressed” evidence favorable to the defense in the Barge case became a partner at Latham & Watkins, then Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General at the Justice Department, and finally, White House counsel between 2011 and 2014.

Andrew Weissman fared, arguably, even better: after destroying Arthur Andersen and Merrill Lynch, Weissman became deputy director/general counsel of the FBI; in late 2013 he “quietly slipped from FBI to NYU,” and in June 2017, he was appointed as a member of the 2017 special counsel team headed by Robert Mueller.

And Sidney Powell?

“As for me,” she writes:

I question deeply whether I can continue to practice law. I have lost trust and faith that most of the Fifth Circuit judges will do the tedious work, keep an open mind, put ideology aside, rule based solely on the law, and ferret out the true facts in the most difficult cases if it means ruling against the government. If one can be heartbroken by a court, I am.

Dear Sidney, after your book, we are as well.

Key Lessons from “Licensed to Lie”

1.      Prosecutors Don’t Care About Justice: They Care About Their Careers
2.      “The Best Lack All Conviction, While the Worst Are Full of Passionate Intensity”
3.      …and Justice for All

Prosecutors Don’t Care About Justice: They Care About Their Careers

As evidenced in many cases surveyed in Sidney Powell’s Licensed to Lie – the Enron scandal, the Andersen and Merrill Lynch convictions, the Ted Stevens debacle – prosecutors are often willingly and consciously hiding evidence in an attempt to win a case.

“Much more must be required,” writes Powell in the last paragraph of her book, “of those who have the honor, privilege, and responsibility of representing us in our courts. They hold in their hands the very lives of our citizens while they are entrusted with and wield the fearsome might and unbridled power of the Sovereign to seek Justice or deal egregious Injustice.”

“The Best Lack All Conviction, While the Worst Are Full of Passionate Intensity”

Unfortunately, prosecutors hiding evidence often end up being on the winning side: not just of a certain case, but of life as well.

Kathryn Ruemmler, for example, and Andrew Weissman, who destroyed companies and cost the jobs of hundreds of thousands of people by “plainly suppressing” evidence made it to the White House.

Sidney Powell is furious:

The various bar associations have abdicated all responsibility regarding the violations by these high-profile lawyers and prosecutors in general. If these facts are not enough to warrant a real investigation, our rules of ethics are meaningless. The Texas Bar, like the Department of Justice, has learned nothing from its prior mistakes. The only ‘change’ in the Department of Justice has been for the worse. Meanwhile misguided, ignorant, overzealous, ambitious, narcissistic, or dishonest current and former prosecutors, some of whom destroyed innocent people while they deliberately withheld evidence they knew contradicted their cases, are making daily decisions that affect all of our lives and the very future of this country. Their conduct stands in sharp contrast to the oath by which they swore to ‘uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.’

Brady Disclosure… and Justice for All

As can be seen from these cases, even the rich are not safe from obstructions of justice – a dish best served to the poor and unguarded.


Because if prosecutors want to achieve something, they have means to achieve it, and they usually don’t care how ethical or unethical these means are.

Don’t know if you know – we didn’t – but prosecutors have discretion with regard to the evidence they are obliged to provide to the defendants, i.e., they are the ones who decide which evidence is relevant to a defendant.

This, in effect, means that they are preparing his or her defense – which is not only unjust but also downright senseless.

Especially after Brady v. Maryland!

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“Licensed to Lie Quotes”

The right to do what the law does not prohibit, without fear of harassment or punishment, is one of the hallmarks of a free society. Click To Tweet One of the fundamental responsibilities of a prosecutor is to charge defendants only with conduct that is clearly criminal. Click To Tweet Misguided, ignorant, overzealous, ambitious, narcissistic, or dishonest current and former prosecutors… are making daily decisions that affect all of our lives and the very future of this country. Click To Tweet The greatest human ideal of Justice is only as good as the character of those who administer it, existing only if its guardians are devotees to integrity and fairness. Click To Tweet I question deeply whether I can continue to practice law… If one can be heartbroken by a court, I am. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

We are not lawyers or that much interested in legal dramas but Licensed to Lie really held our attention from beginning to end.

The book “reads like a cross between investigative journalism and courtroom drama” (William Hodes) and it unearths the unethical behavior of numerous prosecutors – be they Republican or Democrat – harbored within the Department of Justice.

We applaud Powell for her courage and demand others to follow her lead and take a stand.

Highly recommended.

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