Girardi Keese, once among the top plaintiffs firms in the country, owes $101 million and has $4.1 million in the bank.

Thomas Girardi on his cell phone outside of court Thomas Girardi. Photo: Christine Jegan

That’s according to a summary of assets and liabilities filed Tuesday by the trustee of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy of Girardi Keese, the firm co-founded by Tom Girardi. The numbers are startling: The firm’s total liabilities of $101,007,652.46 include nearly 500 separate claims from litigation financing firms, law firms, consulting firms, media companies, vendors, former employees and others.

The largest secured claim, for $11.7 million, comes from former clients Joseph, Jaime and Kathleen Ruigomez, who obtained a judgment against Girardi Keese to get paid from their settlement with Pacific Gas & Electric. The largest unsecured claim is for $25 million from Owen, Patterson & Owen, a personal injury firm in Valencia, California.

The second largest unsecured claim is nearly $8.7 million owed to a litigation funder associated with the estate of the former Masry & Vititoe, the firm that worked with Girardi Keese on the environment case made famous by the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich.”

Under the Chapter 11 reorganization plan in 2011 of Masry & Vititoe, litigation funder California Attorney Lending II is a “disbursing agent,” assigned to manage the client relationships for cases transferred to Girardi Keese and required to get 90% of the revenues.

“Here’s the reason for the claim: As Masry & Vititoe started to collapse, it had many large, active cases, which were then given to Tom Girardi to prosecute,” said William Savino, of Woods Oviatt Gilman in Buffalo, New York, who represents California Attorney Lending II. “The payment from Girardi barely got off the ground, essentially disappeared, and that is the estimated balance of what is owed for the cases prosecuted by Girardi referred by Masry & Vititoe.”

Ed Masry died in 2005, but Vititoe Law Group, the firm in Westlake Village, California, now run by James Vititoe, has an unsecured claim against Girardi Keese for about $150,000.

Savino also represents California Attorney Lending II in a nearly $6.7 million secured claim against Girardi Keese involving the funding of its own cases.

The trustee’s summary also lists 5,276 clients, including 970 minors, who may be owed money, although it doesn’t give any amounts.

The filing, which comes months after unsecured creditors filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition against Girardi Keese on Dec. 18, isn’t complete. Many of the claims have no dollar figures. The trustee, Elissa Miller, of SulmeyerKupetz in Los Angeles, noted in her filing that Girardi Keese’s records were “piled high on each and every flat surface and in no discernable order.”

Elissa Miller with SulmeyerKupetz. Courtesy photo

Girardi’s estimated total assets of $4,130,773.59 consist primarily of numerous bank accounts, including client trust accounts, but also could include stocks, real estate or intellectual property. A statement of financial affairs, also filed Tuesday, says Girardi Keese had annual revenues of $46 million in 2018 and $31.1 million in 2019 but, by 2020, had fallen to less than $12.6 million.

The trustee, hoping to recoup more funds, has struck agreements with other law firms to take over existing Girardi Keese cases, which may garner attorney fees for the estate.

She also filed a lawsuit last month against Girardi’s estranged wife, Erika Jayne, who stars on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” The trustee, through special counsel Ronald Richards, of Ronald Richards & Associates, in Beverly Hills, California, is pursuing allegations that Jayne received $25 million from Girardi Keese.

The trustee’s summary lists $25,592,261.26 as “receivables due from EJ Global LLC,” which is Jayne’s corporation.

EJ Global was “merely an instrumentality to funnel a large scale tax fraud from the debtor to the benefit of defendant Erika,” wrote Richards in the trustee’s amended complaint, filed Thursday. From 2008 to 2020, more than $14 million came via an American Express card, which the complaint alleges helped supply Jayne’s $175,000 monthly spending budget and entertainment career.

The trustee also arranged an auction, which closed this week, of the office equipment, artwork, law books, and sports and music memorabilia from Girardi Keese’s offices—although this week’s filing estimated those items to be worth only about $384,000. It also included a 2011 Cadillac DTS Premium, a signed “Pet Sounds” album by the Beach Boys, and boxes of plaques and awards, including the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame in 2014.


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