May 8, 2009
Grain-Related Nebraska Misconduct Draws Reprimand
The Nebraska Supreme Court imposed a public reprimand of an attorney who had been convicted in federal court of the misdemeanor of making and delivering a writing containing a known false statement.
The lawyer represented (and served on the board) of a bank. One of the bank's customers ("CLN") operated a grain elevator. The conduct had occurred in 1996, when grain prices were at an historic high. Farmers sought to lock into the high prices for future years utilizing "hedge-to-arrive" ("HTA") contracts to price grain for future delivery. The bank loaned money to CLN based on the HTA contracts. The false statements were made in addenda presented to farmers who had signed the HTA contracts and who later lost money and were sued. Some of the farmers claimed that CLN had misrepresented the addendum to imply that they would not be personally liable.
A federal investigation led to a multimember conspiracy indictment. The attorney pled to a single misdemeanor count. The court here noted that the conviction conclusively established the underlying conduct. However, the actions took place 13 years ago, were an isolated incident in a 27 year career and there was significant character evidence presented on behalf of the attorney. The attorney also had helped banking investigators sort out the mess and cooperated in the disciplinary investigation. Thus, public reprimand was the appropriate sanction. (Mike Frisch)
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