Category: Law and Lawyers

Teddy Bear Collector Admits Stealing San Diego County Pension $

Paul Greenwood

Bow-tie wearing hedge fund founder Paul Greenwood has pleaded guilty to defrauding San Diego County’s pension and other big institutional investors of at least $331 million.

Greenwood and partner, Stephen Walsh, ran WG Trading, which collapsed with $78 million of San Diego County retirees’ money.

“You treated these investments as your own personal bank accounts?” U.S. District Judge Miriam Cedarbaum in Manhattan asked Greenwood during his plea hearing yesterday.
“Correct,” said Greenwood, who said he and Walsh often paid investors back using funds from other investors.
Greenwood used part of the money to acquire a collection of rare teddy bears and other stuffed animals.
The San Diego County Employees’ Retirement Association is suing to get its money back.

WSJ's Latest Lerach Attack

Even though he has been driven from the practice of law, Bill Lerach, whom I recently profiled for Voice of San Diego, remains one of the conservative movement’s leading bogeymen.

Until he was sentenced to prison, Lerach struck fear in the heart of corporate America by extracting costly settlements from the nation’s biggest companies. He recently completed his sentenced and retired to his La Jolla mansion.

Today’s editorial “A Bill Lerach Tax Cut” finds the Journal in a lather over a report that the U.S. Treasury Department planned to give lawyers a tax break over contingency fee lawsuits.

Such a tax break would effectively subsidize the up-front costs of litigation for the the “zillionaire likes of felons Dickie Scruggs, Mel Weiss, and Bill Lerach,” the Journal writes.

These include San Diego firms such as Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, Lerach’s old firm, and Robbins Umeda that file shareholder derivative lawsuits and securities class actions. Firms that do this work on contingency, which means they are paid out of a settlement at the conclusion of the case.

The report Wednesday in cited unnamed sources at a meeting of the trial lawyer’s association in Vancouver, Canada.

The Treasury Department declined comment “on speculation about any potential administrative rulings.”

When George Steinbrenner ratted out Merrill Lynch, Teamsters

The obituaries for Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who died this week at age 80, all refer to his 1974 conviction for illegal campaign contributions to the Nixon campaign and the pardon Steinbrenner received from Ronald Reagan.

Steinbrenner’s defense attorney was the legendary trial lawyer Edward Bennett Williams. Steinbrenner wasn’t impressed. “I paid him $100,000” Steinbrenner once reportedly said, “and all he did was a cop a plea.”

That’s true, but Williams did the best he could for a client who had dug a mighty deep hole for himself.  The issue wasn’t the illegal contributions, per se. The problem was Steinbrenner, the chief executive of American Shipbuilding, had funneled the contributions through his employees (disguised as “bonuses”) and then instructed them to lie to a grand jury. That’s suborning perjury and people go to jail for it.

According to The Man to See, Evan Thomas’ splendid 1991 biography of Williams, the attorney told prosecutors that Steinbrenner could implicate others in exchange for leniency.

“Steinbrenner could provide us with more than a dozen companies which had been involved in 610 [illegal corporate contribution] violations. … Williams indicated that Merrill Lynch had substantial difficulties in the campaign finance area. …  Williams indicted that Steinbrenner had heard that the Teamsters had given more than a million dollars, that the million dollars had been kept at the Hotel Pierre, and that someone from the Teamsters had stolen it back again,” prosecutor John Koetl wrote following a meeting with Williams on October 18, 1973.

Ultimately, on the obstruction of justice charge, the government allowed Steinbrenner to plead guilty to being an accessory after the fact, a misdemeanor and the sentencing judge let him off with a fine. The commissioner of baseball wasn’t so merciful; he suspended Steinbrenner for two years.

Update: The Smoking Gun beat me to the punch on this one. Here’s a copy of the memo

Ray Lucia Defamation Threat

For more visit: A Professional’s View of Ray Lucia’s Non-Traded REITs

Investor and local radio talk show host Ray “Buckets of Money” Lucia has threatened to sue me for $300,000 for defamation over a blog post I wrote last month.

Robert K. Butterfield, a San Diego attorney, is outraged that I dared to besmirch the good name of Raymond J. Lucia, who dispenses financial wisdom on a daily radio show in several big media markets. This is after all the same man actor Ben Stein recently described in an opinion piece in The New York Times as a “stock guru.”

Attorney Butterfield insists that I must stop pointing out Lucia’s relationship to San Diego-based First Allied Securities, which recently agreed to pay nearly $2 million to settle U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges that it failed to supervise one of its employees.

He also demands that I never again repeat the blasphemy that fees for Lucia account run as high as 2 percent, paid quarterly in advance. (Lucia Defamation Threat Letter)

Your statement that Mr. Lucia’s company has never charged a management fee of 2% is completely false and another intentional malicious act. His company has never charged a management fee of over 1% even though they have the ability to charge up to 2% — but you did not bother to check this — did you?

Even though Lucia’s own SEC disclosure plainly states “The standard annual managed fees for RJL [Raymond J. Lucia] Adviser Directed accounts are 2 percent,” Attorney Butterfield has a point. Fees for one “wealth management” program pushed by Lucia actually run as high as 2.9 percent

That is an eye-popping number. It’s about half of the compound rate of return of the Dow Jones Industrial Average for the past 50 years. That fee is assessed on the entire value of whatever you invest with Lucia, even if he loses money. It makes me wonder whose wealth is really being “managed” here.

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PSI Hearings on WaMu Next Week

I wrote this story in The American Lawyer (.pdf) last year on the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee for Investigations, which is one of a handful of congressional committees that defense lawyers in D.C. actually take seriously.

Lawyers joke that PSI stands for “pretty scary investigations.” If you’re getting pulled before the PSI, a criminal indictment may not be far off.

As I reported, everyone knew the PSI would be investigating the financial crisis. The question was: Who was the target?

Next week, the PSI will hold hearings on Washington Mutual Bank.

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