Leonard Rowe ()
A federal judge has ordered the arrest of a concert promoter accused of filing spurious debtors’ liens against several lawyers, a law firm and the William Morris Endeavor Entertainment talent agency.
Southern District Judge Robert Patterson (See Profile) told U.S. Marshals on Friday to track down and take into custody Leonard Rowe of Rowe Entertainment, who has allegedly been filing Uniform Commercial Code financing statements to harass lawyers with Loeb & Loeb in New York and his former lawyers at Dentons.
The judge said Rowe, a Georgia resident, “has, in fact, demonstrated a deliberate intent to continue to violate” the judge’s Feb. 18 contempt order “and thereby threaten financial harm to the targets of his conduct.”
Rowe had not been arrested as of Monday morning. Reached by phone, he refused to discuss the case.
The judge, in his Friday order, said the Marshal’s Service “is permitted to use whatever reasonable force is necessary to arrest and detain Rowe.”
Rowe was the name plaintiff in Rowe Entertainment v. The William Morris Agency, 98-8272, a case alleging that black concert promoters were subject to discriminatory and anti-competitive practices by booking agencies and promoters who colluded with those agencies to monopolize the concert business.
Patterson granted summary judgment for the defendants in 2005, and his ruling was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
The U.S. Supreme Court then denied Rowe’s petition for a writ of certiorari, and Rowe later appealed to Patterson, without success, to reopen the case.
Patterson issued a permanent injunction against Rowe on Dec. 6, 2013 after Rowe threatened to file more than a billion dollars worth of commercial liens against William Morris, Loeb & Loeb and Dentons; tell credit rating agencies that the parties’ credit was suspect; and seize their property to help undermine the 2005 judgment.
Patterson said the attorneys and the agencies “face the risk of irreparable harm as meritless liens are easy to file, difficult to remove and cause financial and reputational harm that is not quantifiable with any certainty.”
The injunction blocked Rowe from making any filing purporting to attach or encumber any property or assets of William Morris or any of 14 attorneys who are either with the firms or agency or represent them.
Rowe proceeded anyway, Patterson said in his latest order, filing UCC financing statements on Feb. 5 and 7 in DeKalb County, Ga., naming Dentons, three members of the Dentons firm, and two Loeb & Loeb partners as a “Lien Debtors” for a debt of $100 million.
He followed up on Feb. 14 by filing a statement naming William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, the successor-in-interest to the William Morris Agency, as a lien debtor for a $500 million debt.
Patterson had issued a contempt order on Feb. 18 that gave Rowe three days to show he has “withdrawn any and all UCC Financing Statements.”
Rowe responded with a letter on Feb. 21, saying he had “placed lien and exhibits in three states over the past week with plans of placing more liens in four additional states” and adding that “[i]f we are able to find a sensible solution to our existing problem, [he] will gladly release each and every one of the liens immediately.”
The judge held a hearing on March 7, but Rowe did not appear. Instead, he wrote the judge that same day saying he was only interested in “how we can sit down seriously and confidentially with intent to resolve this matter, or allowing a jury of 12 to do the same. I am not willing to allow any further fraud or abuse to be directed toward me or my family by these corrupt individuals, law firms or companies.”
Tal Dickstein, senior counsel at Loeb & Loeb, is on the legal team that represents William Morris as well as his own firm.
“The problem here is that’s its exceedingly easy to file UCC financial statements even if they don’t have actual merit because UCC Article 9 requires state officials to accept these filings without looking into their validity,” Dickstein said Monday.
The filings have the effect of harming the alleged debtor’s credit rating, he said. “These liens can show up when someone is applying for a mortgage or a car loan and it can result in the denial of credit or credit offered at higher interest rates. Potentially, it can come up when you’re applying to a prospective employer.”
The bar has become increasingly concerned about what has been dubbed “paper terrorism.”
New York state recently enhanced penalties for filing baseless liens against judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys “in retaliation for performance of their official duties” (NYLJ, Feb. 6).
The legislation also authorizes the Judiciary to establish a “special proceeding” where petitioners can ask to have the unfounded filings dismissed and the record expunged. Judges could then designate a referee to hear complaints to expedite the expungement process.