The defense attorney for convicted fraudster and disbarred attorney Scott Rothstein said Tuesday that he was paid a $350,000 salary and lived for free in a waterfront Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home owned by his employer.
Berger Singerman attorney Charles Lichtman, representing the bankruptcy trustee for the defunct Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler, questioned former RRA attorney Marc Nurik in the latest deposition trying to trace money that moved through the firm before Rothstein's $1.2 billion fraud collapsed.
Nurik said, "Scott as a friend allowed me to live in his house with the understanding" that he eventually would pay rent.
Lichtman asked Nurik when he understood he would start paying rent and inquired if it would be when Rothstein faced charges.
"Let's not be facetious here. We've been doing so well," Nurik replied.
Nurik, who left the firm to defend Rothstein, lived for free in one of several homes owned by his boss from July 2008 to last October when investors started clamoring for missed payments on phony settlement financing. Nurik said he now pays about $2,500 per month to rent a three-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot house with a mold problem at 2316 Castilla Isle.
When Lichtman asked if the rent was part of his income, Nurik said no. Fellow RRA attorney David Boden was living next door in another waterfront home owned by Rothstein, but Nurik said he didn't know if Boden had to pay rent. The Rothstein homes were seized as part of the fraud probe. Rothstein is awaiting sentencing on federal charges, and Nurik said he gave his $50,000 retainer to Kim Rothstein's attorney to hold.
Lichtman reviewed Nurik's work history, which included about eight years at Ruden McClosky, including two years on the firm's management committee. Nurik left Genovese Joblove & Battista, which coincidentally is serving as the bankruptcy trustee's co-counsel, to join Rothstein's firm in October 2007.
Lichtman explored Nurik's knowledge of law firm management, economics and compensation.
When asked if he agreed lawyers get paid for their time, Nurik said, "I agree lawyers sometimes get paid by time." He said compensation also can be based on "the value you provide to the firm -- if for example you're a former judge or a well-known politician or you have a significant reputation in your field of endeavor."
Lichtman asked, "Is this your spiel about the Rothstein firm?"
Nurik said it wasn't.
Rothstein hired ex-judges and former Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne after he served a federal sentence for public corruption. Federal prosecutors charged that Rothstein immersed himself in political and celebrity circles in part to feed demand for his fraud.
Nurik said he held an honorary title of shareholder but did not share in firm profits. He said he didn't know what RRA employees were paid except for a few lawyers he helped bring to the firm.
Nurik said he was promised a $50,000 signing bonus, but he didn't know if it counted as a loan. The trustee is trying to recover money listed on law firm books as loans to its attorneys. Nurik previously disputed a claim he owes $190,000 on a loan from the firm.
Lichtman asked if Nurik ever saw the firm's financial statements.
"I never asked, and I wouldn't have expected to get any. Scott made it clear he and Stuart (Rosenfeldt) ran the firm," Nurik said.
Rothstein and Rosenfeldt were the firm's only shareholders, but Rosenfeldt said Rothstein never shared the firm's books with him.
Nurik said State Farm paid $100,000 to settle after Nurik broke his hip in a hit-and-run accident. He was being paid in installments, and the final payment was made last Oct. 30, right before Rothstein's fraud was uncovered. RRA partner Russ Adler represented him.
Asked if he got anything else of value from the firm, Nurik said he received a pair of RRA cufflinks that were not to his taste.
When Lichtman asked if he received a car, Nurik responded, "I wish."