Thursday, May 17, 2018
The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended an attorney with no prior discipline for one year
On June 24, 2016, the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) filed a complaint against Attorney Bauer alleging 28 counts of misconduct. The complaint alleged that between December 2013 and October 2014, Attorney Bauer misused seven clients' trust funds and mismanaged his trust account. On numerous occasions he transferred client funds from one account to another without permission of the clients, failed to make No. 2016AP1259-D notations of the transfers, transferred trust account funds to fill gaps created in other client accounts to avoid detection, transferred trust funds to his office account and to the account of his subsidiary business, Sports Advisors, Inc., and borrowed money to reestablish correct account balances. It is undisputed that all of the clients received all monies due them. It is also undisputed that none of the clients consented to the use of their money to fund disbursements that benefitted others.
Attorney Bauer made numerous improper transfers of multiple clients' funds between his firm's trust account, the firm's business account, and accounts belonging to Attorney Bauer's side business, Sports Advisors, Inc. These labyrinthine transfers support the referee's comments that Attorney Bauer saw his trust account "as something akin to a slush fund" and that the transfers "seemed to constantly be in the process of 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' and, in some cases, to pay Michael Bauer." The transfers continued for nearly one year. Attorney Bauer was an experienced attorney who should have known that the transfers were improper. We agree with the referee that Attorney Bauer's repeated acts of dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation in converting $376,000 in client funds, along with his failure to comply with multiple supreme court rules regarding trust account management, warrant a one-year suspension. As is our usual custom, we also find it appropriate to assess the full costs of the proceeding against Attorney Bauer.
There are places where this kind of misconduct draws a much more severe sanction. (Mike Frisch)