They are the mysterious seven: former employees of Dewey & LeBoeuf who pleaded guilty to taking part in a four-year plan to manipulate the financial statements of the once prominent law firm, but whose identities and plea agreements are being kept under wraps by New York prosecutors.
When Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. announced this month the filing of a 106-count indictment against three former top executives at the law firm and a low-level employee, the disclosure that he had also secured pleas and potential cooperation from seven people in the nearly two-year investigation was a surprise.
But the decision to keep their names secret even after the four accused — Steven Davis, Dewey's former chairman; Stephen DiCarmine, its former executive director; Joel Sanders, the former chief financial officer; and Zachary Warren, a former client relations manager — had been arrested and charged is striking some in the legal world as even more surprising. Defense lawyers say the continued sealing of those cases is akin to the way prosecutors often handle organized crime cases or an undercover investigation.
(Read more: Ex-Dewey LeBoeuf law firm execs charged in alleged fraud)
"It's not the typical process," said Alafair S. Burke, a criminal law professor at the Hofstra University School of Law and a writer of crime novels. Ms. Burke said she could understand the prosecutors wanting to keeping secret the names of people who had pleaded guilty if there was a fear of witness-tampering or witness intimidation. But that seems unlikely in what is essentially a white-collar accounting fraud case, she said.