A group of investors victimized by R. Allen Stanford’s $7 billion Ponzi scheme along with their receiver have filed a lawsuit seeking $1.8 billion in damages from the law firms of Greenberg Traurig and Hunton & Williams.
The malpractice lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Dallas, targets the two firms where Stanford’s lawyer, Carlos Loumiet, once worked, and also names a former Stanford employee and Loumiet protege, Yolanda Suarez.
Loumiet, who now works in the Miami office of DLA Piper, is not named as a defendant.
The two law firms employed Loumiet, who served as Stanford’s outside general counsel, from 1988 through 2009. Yolanda Suarez, Stanford’s former chief of staff and general counsel, also worked at Greenberg Traurig before joining Stanford Financial Group Co. in 1992.
Suarez, a former protégée of Loumiet described in the complaint as Stanford’s “right-hand,” is named as an individual defendant.
“Stanford could not have perpetrated this global mass fraud on his own,” Edward Snyder, a lawyer for the Official Stanford Investors Committee, said in the complaint. “Loumiet’s and Suarez’s fingerprints are all over the Stanford fraud scheme from beginning to end.”
When asked why Loumiet was not named a defendant, Angela Shaw, a spokeswoman for the Stanford Investors Committee, said he and other Greenberg Traurig lawyers may be sued in the future.
“This doesn’t mean that he won’t be sued, it’s just that we wanted to sue the firms and Ms. Suarez at this time,” she said. “He wasn’t the only lawyer. Greenberg had tons and tons of lawyers involved in this. There could well be future lawsuits.”
In a statement, Jim Cowles, an attorney representing Greenberg Traurig, maintained the firm is not responsible for the Stanford fraud and called the suit “plaintiffs’ newest attempt to pry open a deep pocket.”
“Greenberg Traurig sympathizes with the investors who lost money as a result of Allen Stanford’s fraud, but the firm played no part in causing those losses,” Cowles said. “Greenberg Traurig is not responsible for the fraud committed by Stanford.”
Hunton & Williams responded similarly in its own statement.
“This lawsuit is factually and legally baseless and an overreach by Stanford Financial Group’s understandably frustrated investors attempting to recoup their unfortunate losses,” the firm said. “Hunton & Williams LLP neither caused nor facilitated the crimes of which Allen Stanford has recently been found guilty. To the contrary, Hunton & Williams LLP is committed to meeting and exceeding the highest ethical standards and does not engage in, condone or counsel others to engage in unlawful activities. Hunton & Williams LLP will vigorously defend itself against this action.”
The 180-page complaint alleges that Loumiet and Greenberg Traurig lawyers like partner Mark Schnapp helped Stanford perpetrate his scheme over the decades.
Loumiet helped Stanford “take over” the tiny, impoverished and “notoriously corrupt” Caribbean island of Antigua by bribing officials, states the complaint.
Loumiet, Greenberg and Schnapp also systematically threatened various newspapers over the years that wrote negative articles about Stanford, according to the complaint.
Greenberg also investigated a U.S. journalist who reported on the scandal, according to the complaint. In 1999, journalist Doug Farah published an article on Stanford in the Washington Post entitled “Texas Banker at Center of Reform Controversy.” A Greenberg associate was directed to investigate Farah and his background, states the complaint.
Suarez, Stanford’s general counsel, invited Farah to dinner at the Washington, D.C., Four Seasons Hotel in an effort to dissuade Farah from writing future articles. Farah later recounted “that it seemed like Suarez was running the business,” according to the complaint.
“Loumiet counseled Stanford for over twenty years on how to evade U.S. laws and regulations while still operating primarily from U.S. soil — essentially providing the architectural structure for Stanford to pull off his $7 billion Ponzi scheme,” the suit says.
Loumiet denied wrongdoing through a statement from his lawyers at Jenner & Block in Chicago.
“As a lawyer and a non-party, it would be inappropriate for me to comment at any length about the recently filed litigation involving the demise of Allen Stanford’s businesses,” according to the statement. “However, I can say that (1) I have never in my long career knowingly helped any client commit any wrongdoing, (2) I have never represented anyone that I knew was engaged in wrongdoing, and (3) after years of investigations by the federal government and months of trials involving Allen Stanford and his co-defendants, I have not been implicated in any wrongdoing. I believe the 23 consecutive years that my peers and judges in South Florida have honored me for practicing with the highest ethical standards attest to my character.
“I look forward to future opportunities to address these matters and put them in an accurate and appropriate context.”
Schnapp, who was in India, was unable to return calls seeking comment. He was however able to provide a statement via email.
“The allegations in the complaint mischaracterize my work and portray my actions in a completely false light. I am confident that my representation will withstand judicial scrutiny.”
On June 14, 2012, Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in prison for cheating investors out of more than $7 billion over 20 years in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history.