Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fee False Statements Draw Reprimand

The web page of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers reports a recent public reprimand:

On January 1, 2008, the respondent joined a Boston law firm. Up to that time, the respondent was a sole practitioner concentrating in bankruptcy law. The respondent and the firm agreed that the firm would pay the respondent a salary, plus commissions on fees from clients he brought to the firm. There was, however, no written agreement between the parties and no clear understanding of how fees paid by pre-existing clients of the respondent on ongoing matters would be allocated.

While employed by the firm in 2008, the respondent filed numerous bankruptcy petitions on behalf of clients. On five bankruptcy petitions, in a section of the petition labeled “statement of financial affairs”, the respondent knowingly falsified the date on which he had collected fees from the client. The respondent falsified the dates on the bankruptcy petitions to make it appear that he had collected the fees prior to joining the firm, when in fact he had collected those fees while employed at the firm. The respondent concealed from the firm that he had received fees from those clients after January 1, 2008. The respondent falsified the dates and concealed his receipt of fees from the clients in 2008 to avoid a claim by the firm that it was entitled to retain those fees.

By knowingly falsifying on bankruptcy petitions filed with the bankruptcy court, the dates on which the respondent had received fees, and concealing his receipt of the fees in 2008 from the firm, the respondent violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(c) (lawyer shall not engage in conduct involving dishonesty, deceit, fraud or misrepresentation) and 8.4(h) (lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his or her fitness to practice law).

In mitigation, the respondent agreed to participate in any fee arbitration, mediation or other form of fee resolution that is initiated by the firm, and to promptly pay any amount that such arbitrator, mediator or other neutral finds that he owes to the firm.

(Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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