June 10, 2010
An Honest Man--Not
The Florida Supreme Court affirmed a referee's findings of misconduct but raised the sanction from a proposed 18-month suspension to a three year term. The attorney had represented a client and his company in proceedings brought by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission alleging that the client had defrauded customers, converted customer funds, and violated federal registration requirements. The client was subject to an injunction that prohibited his participation in commodities transactions.
Several years later, the client advertised for new business partners (read:suckers). A potential partner responded. In response to a query, the attorney told the potential partner of the client that the client was an "honest man." The attorney failed to disclose the court order prohibiting certain business transactions. The attorney also failed to disclose the client's prior criminal record. Both the court order and criminal history were matters of public record. The attorney then represented adverse interests in the matter.
The referee found that the "honest man" remark "triggered a duty to reveal to [the prospective partner] the negative information he had concerning [the client] that could have impacted [his] decision to go into business with [the client]." The attorney admitted that the remark was intended to convince the prospective partner to proceed with the proposed deal. He also admitted that he had an interest in fees that the deal would generate. (Mike Frisch)
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