Wednesday, September 22, 2021

PAC Man

The Colorado Presiding Discipline Judge approved a conditional admission of misconduct and imposed disbarment

In June 2016, Call’s law firm entered into an agreement to represent a political action committee (“PAC”); as part of that agreement, Call agreed to act as the PAC’s treasurer. In January 2017, Call contracted with the PAC in his personal capacity to provide strategy and fundraising services for a monthly flat fee of $5,000.00. Call authorized the contract on behalf of the PAC and signed for both parties. He did not obtain the PAC’s written informed consent concerning possible conflicts of interest arising from transacting with the organization for personal business while acting as its treasurer, nor did he advise the PAC in writing that the advice of independent counsel would be desirable. Call also did not obtain the PAC’s written informed consent to the essential terms of the contract, including whether he was representing the organization in the matter. He never disclosed the contract to his law firm.

In October 2016, the PAC received a $1,000,000.00 contribution from a donor who had previously contributed the same amount. A fundraising consultant deposited the money directly into the PAC’s account. Call did not include the donation in federal reports in 2016 and 2017. He says that he realized he had made a mistake in 2018 during a review of the PAC’s federal reports, after which he submitted an amended federal report that included the donation. From September 2016 to January 2019, Call withdrew or wired to himself PAC funds, some of which he mistakenly withdrew and later reimbursed. He also disbursed to himself PAC funds and reported to federal authorities that the funds were paid to his firm, even though the firm did not receive the payments. In June 2019, the PAC fired Call after discovering the discrepancies between its disbursements and the federal reports he filed. Afterward, Call did not return all of the PAC’s papers and property in his possession. In addition, he misled his law firm about the disbursements and concealed from its partners and the PAC’s counsel information about the disbursements he had made to himself. He resigned from the law firm in August 2019.

The conditional admission does not concede a violation of Rules 1.15 (misappropriation) or 8.4(c)(criminal conduct) but admits dishonesty, conflict of interest, false statement to a third party and business transaction with a client.

The Colorado Sun reported

The funds allegedly were taken from Rebuilding America Now PAC, created in 2016 by former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and Tom Barrack, a real estate investor.

The complaint was filed before the state Supreme Court’s presiding disciplinary judge. It alleges that Call failed to report a $1 million contribution to the PAC for more than two years.

Editor's note: Who better to allegedly steal from?

Colorado Newsline also had a story that included his initial denial of the allegations

In Call’s response to the OARC’s disciplinary complaint, Call’s attorney, Nancy Cohen, provides a variety of explanations for the alleged $280,000 in “misappropriated” funds. Regarding several large payments that Call had falsely reported to the FEC as being made to his employer, the law firm Hale Westfall, the response claims that he accidentally failed to report the payee as himself “c/o” Hale Westfall. “His omission of ‘c/o’ was inadvertent and immaterial,” the response states.

A $10,000 payment Call made to himself in December 2016 is characterized as a “bonus for the election win,” similar to bonuses received by several other officers of the PAC. Call’s response admits that he entered into a $5,000-per-month consulting contract with RAN, signing the contract both as RAN’s treasurer and for himself in his personal capacity, but it claims that the contract was legitimate and that other individuals involved with RAN were aware of the contract.

“Respondent had lawful authority, explicit and implicit, to make payments to himself for the consulting work performed by him,” the response states. “Respondent provided consulting services that had value to RAN and it would be an unjust enrichment to RAN if RAN did not pay for those services.”

Jessica Yates, head of the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel, told Newsline that her office’s investigation originated from a report made in May 2020 by Allan Hale, Call’s former partner at Hale Westfall. Hale confirmed that he had made the referral, pursuant to Colorado Bar Association rules that require the reporting of professional misconduct.

“These circumstances are very rare, in my experience,” Hale, who has practiced law in Colorado for more than 30 years, told Newsline in an interview. “The Office of Attorney Regulation (Counsel) is very capable of doing the investigation, and so that’s why — that’s what our job is, to turn it over to them. We’ve taken the steps that we thought were necessary to make the referral, and fire Ryan.”

(Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2021/09/the-colorado-presiding-discipline-judge-approved-a-n-june-2016-calls-law-firm-entered-into-an-agreement-to-represent-a-p.html

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