Despite the bitter court battle to dissolve Buffalo-based law firm Cellino & Barnes, name partners at the personal-injury firm are still earning big profits, according to court documents.
Both Stephen Barnes and Ross Cellino have each received profit distributions of $7 million this year. Despite Cellino filing a suit in May against Barnes seeking to dissolve the 25-year partnership, each partner has earned $2 million in the months since the suit was filed, according to documents filed by their respective attorneys with Erie County Supreme Court Justice Deborah Chimes.
The name partners each earned $5.4 million in 2013, $7.3 million in 2014, $8 million in 2015 and $10.75 million in 2016, according to the memorandum of law in support of the respondents’ motion to dismiss the petition filed by attorneys at Duke, Holzman, Photiadis & Gresens and Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria. The attorneys are representing Barnes and the firm of Cellino & Barnes in the matter. The shareholder distribution to Cellino, according to the document, is expected to increase to $11 million in 2018, $12 million in 2019 and $12.5 million in 2020.
“Despite voluntarily withdrawing from C&B’s operations and still being paid $44 million over the past five years—plus $7 million so far in 2017—Cellino petitioned the court for dissolution. Cellino completely ignores and overlooks the great success C&B has achieved and the projected success the firm is expected to achieve,” lawyers for the firm and Barnes said in the memorandum of law.
The law firm, which has offices in New York and California and is known for its ubiquitous broadcast ads, employs more than 50 attorneys and has roughly 230 employees throughout its offices. Cellino & Barnes has settled roughly 35,000 cases and retains over 12,000 current clients, attorneys for the firm and Barnes claim.
“C&B is currently operating at a high level, extremely profitable, and more successful than it has ever been. In 2016, the firm achieved settlements of more than $165 million and generated profits of more than $21.5 million. Over the last five years, C&B’s settlements have increased by approximately 54 percent and profits have increased over 100 percent. C&B’s profits have consistently increased from approximately $8.8 million in 2010 to $21.5 million in 2016,” the attorneys representing Barnes and the firm wrote.
While the law firm and its name partners have been financially successful, each of the name partners would become liable for paying $5 million to M&T Bank if the partnership were dissolved.
“More than just the lost profits, there is more than $5 million in debt for the firm’s disbursements being carried by M&T Bank for the 12,000 current cases being handled by the firm. In the event of dissolution, Cellino and Barnes would immediately become liable for repaying $2.5 million each to M&T Bank,” the court document states.
As a result of the acrimonious breakup and back-and-forth allegations of poaching and bullying in court documents, Barnes’ lawyers asked Chimes last week for a gag order to stymie the accusations being levied. Chimes denied the request.