In recent weeks, we’ve come across Am Law 200 lawyers in trouble for allegedly scamming private schools, helping run Ponzi schemes, taking vacations with client funds, and all manner of other improprieties.
The latest alleged malfeasor came to a light through a Wednesday report in DNAinfo.com on criminal and civil charges pending against Sidley Austin counsel Marshall Feiring related to a June incident in Central Park. According to a criminal complaint filed by the New York county district attorney’s office, Feiring allegedly yanked a woman off a bike after she swerved to avoid him while riding in the bike lane along Central Park West. The complaint, which brings charges of misdemeanor assault and harassment, says Feiring pulled the woman, Courtney Fullilove, by a heavy bike chain hanging on her shoulder, causing her to fall and suffer bruising and lacerations.
On Monday, Fullilove filed a civil suit in Manhattan state court against Feiring, a tax lawyer in Sidley’s New York office. The complaint alleges that as a result of the fall, Fullilove suffered a long list of mental and physical trauma, including a severe concussion, memory loss, recurrent disabling headaches, spinal derangement, and mental anguish forcing her to take a leave of absence from a position as a history professor.
Reached Wednesday, Feiring referred calls to his attorney, Sanford Talkin of New York criminal defense firm Talkin, Muccigrosso & Roberts, who said Feiring maintains his innocence. “We look forward to having our day in court,” he said in reference to the criminal case, adding that he has not yet been served with the civil suit. Feiring is due in court December 18.
As reported by The Am Law Daily and its sibling publication, a handful of other lawyers this month have faced criminal prosecution. Those include: former Cozen O’Connor real estate attorney Charles Naselsky, who received a five-year-eight-month-long- federal prison sentence after being convicted of diverting fees from the law firm and not claiming that income on his tax returns; former Mayer Brown partner Joseph Collins, convicted November 16 for a second time of helping Refco executives hide a $2.4 billion fraud from investors and purchasers of the financial services firm; and former Nixon Peabody securities partner David Tamman, who was found guilty of 10 criminal counts connected to his participation in a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors, primarily members of Los Angeles’s Iranian-Jewish community, out of as much as $20 million. A longtime Alston & Bird secretary also received a three-year prison sentence for embezzling $800,000 from one of the firm’s founding partners.
Others have come under fire by local attorney disciplinary committees.
In Illinois, longtime McDermott Will & Emery securities partner Bruce Golden—who left the firm in 1991—was disbarred November 19 for lying about his income in order to receive financial aid for his daughter’s private schooling. According to a report from the state’s discipline commission, Golden collected $22,830 over a three-year period to help send his child to Francis W. Parker School in Chicago, a K-12 school that lists tuition on its website of between $24,050 and $31,290 a year.
As the ABA Journal reported last year, Golden’s falsification of tax records may have tipped off the discipline board, but he didn’t help his cause when he “dodged service of the ethics complaint, filed frivolous pleadings, unleashed his anger on opposing counsel and others during a hearing and ‘continually blamed others for everything wrong in his life.’ ” ABA Journal also links to a lawsuit Golden filed against McDermott and several of the firm’s partners, now dismissed, for what he says was his improper expulsion from the partnership and failure to get fully paid under his severance agreement.
A man who answered the phone number listed on Golden’s Illinois bar records Wednesday said he was unavailable. A spokesman for McDermott said the firm had no comment.
A New Jersey lawyer received his second punishment this week, this time from a New York court, for mishandling a fee received after his former firm dissolved.
The attorney, Michael Etkin, joined Lowenstein Sandler in 2000 in a 17-lawyer group move from Ravin, Sarasohn, Cook, Baumgarten, Fisch & Rose, which dissolved two months later. According to an order retroactively suspending Etkin for three months, first reported by Reuters, Etkin received a check for some $218,000 three years after jumping to Lowenstein for work on a securities litigation case initiated at Ravin and taken with him to his new firm. After depositing the money in a personal bank account, Etkin gave Lowenstein its share but withheld $148,935 due to the defunct Ravin firm.
He eventually gave Ravin $110,000, deducting salary he says he was owed by his former firm, but not before holding the cash in a money market account for 17 months, according to the Wednesday decision by a New York appellate court recommending the suspension. Etkin, a bankruptcy and commercial litigation partner in Lowenstein’s New Jersey office who is also licensed to practice in New York, received the same suspension last December from a New Jersey court. He is now allowed to practice law in both states.
Lowenstein chairman and CEO Gary Wingens said in an email that the firm has no comment. Etkin did not return a request for comment Wednesday, and Etkin’s attorney, Hinshaw & Culbertson partner Hal Lieberman, also had no comment.
In another recent discipline case in New York, John Horenstein, an attorney since 1995, received a suspension until further notice for admitting to billing $40,203 to a client for six trips to Dallas taken for “purely personal reasons,” according to a November 8 decision from a New York appellate court. The decision says that because his “misconduct threatens the public interest,” he is suspended until the court completes its discipline process. The trips occurred in February and July of 2011, after which Horenstein submitted detailed bills to a single client to cover the expenses.
The decision says Horenstein resigned in January from his firm, where he served as a partner. According to Reuters, that firm was Condon & Forsyth, and Horenstein subsequently joined Cozen O’Connor. Horenstein no longer appears on Cozen’s website and bar records list a Plainview, New York,- address with a phone number that could no longer accept voicemails. His attorney, New York solo practitioner Richard Maltz, did not immediately return a request for comment, nor did a Cozen spokeswoman. (Earlier this year, another Cozen lawyer was disciplined for sham billing practices and given a 30-month suspension, according to our past reports).
In a similar case across the pond, former Hogan Lovells partner Christopher Grierson received England’s version of disbarment November 1 for defrauding the firm of £1.3 million in fictitious travel expenses, Legal Week reported. Grierson, who was let go from the firm last spring, received a three-year prison sentence in May, according to Legal Week.
For ongoing coverage of lawyers in trouble, check out The Hot Seat at sibling publication Law.com.