Tuesday, July 20, 2010

General Counsel Indefinitely Suspended For Criminal Conviction

From the web page of the Ohio Supreme Court:

[An attorney] has been indefinitely suspended from the practice of law for multiple violations of state attorney discipline rules arising from his convictions on federal criminal counts of money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to obstruct proceedings before the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and conspiracy to obstruct proceedings before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. [The attorney] has been under an interim suspension since December 2009 as a result of his felony convictions.

In a 4-2 per curiam decision announced today, the Supreme Court adopted findings by the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline that [his] actions as general counsel for a nutritional supplement firm assisted the company’s owner in concealing $14 million in assets that were in danger of seizure by the Federal Trade Commission and/or subject to future lawsuits by the company’s customers. The Court agreed with the board’s conclusions that [his] conduct violated, among others, the disciplinary rules that prohibit an attorney from engaging in illegal conduct involving moral turpitude; conduct involving fraud, deceit, dishonesty or misrepresentation; and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Although the disciplinary board recommended a two-year license suspension with six months stayed, a majority of the Court voted to impose an indefinite suspension without eligibility to apply for reinstatement until after [he] has completed the three-year term of supervised release imposed by the trial court in his criminal case.

The majority opinion was joined by Justices Paul E. Pfeifer, Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Judith Ann Lanzinger and Robert R. Cupp. 

Justice Terrence O’Donnell entered a dissent, joined by Justice Maureen O’Connor, stating that [his] convictions for money laundering involving $14 million, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and conspiracy to obstruct official proceedings before the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration, as well as the court’s duty to protect the public from lawyers who fail to adhere to the highest ethical standards, require that [he] be disbarred.

Chief Justice Eric Brown did not participate in the court’s deliberations or decision in this case.

The attorney was admitted in 2003. His practice "consisted mainly of estate-planning and small-business matters." He had a childhood friend who owned a "rapidly growing nutraceutical company." The friend brought him in as the company's general counsel. The criminal charges involved a scheme to transfer the friend's assets ($14 million) into two trusts in order to protect them from the FTC and future legal claims. The trust documents were prepared by outside counsel but were reviewed by the attorney, who also served as a trustee.

The court's opinion is linked here. (Mike Frisch)


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