In Shaw v. United States, No. 15-5991 (Dec. 12, 2016), the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that Lawrence Eugene Shaw had defrauded a national bank when he used a customer’s personal details to transfer more than $275,000 from that bank’s customer’s account to his own PayPal account. In an opinion written by Justice Breyer, the Court rejected Shaw’s arguments that the conviction was inappropriate because prosecutors could not prove that Shaw intended to defraud the bank. The Court held, among other things, that: (i) the bank had a property interest in the customer’s deposits; (ii) the defendant’s ignorance of the application of property laws to bank deposits was not a defense; and (iii) the bank fraud statute does not require the government to prove that the defendant intended that the bank would suffer a loss; rather, his knowledge that the bank likely would suffer a loss was sufficient.
Despite this finding, the Supreme Court ultimately vacated the Ninth Circuit’s decision affirming the conviction and remanded it to the appellate court for consideration of whether a claimed defect in the jury instructions was properly preserved for appeal, whether the instructions were defective, and whether any resulting error was harmless.