Hello everyone and welcome to this JACPA Ethics Alert which discusses the recent media reports that a lawyer who worked for the Chicago office of Greenberg Traurig pled guilty to criminal charges and sentenced for falsely billing $100,000.00 worth of work to the City of Calumet Park, a suburb of Chicago.
According to the media reports (most recently AmLaw Daily), the lawyer was a former partner in the government affairs department at the Greenberg Traurig office in Chicago and he was sentenced to six years in prison and taken into custody on September 12, 2011. He was the city’s special counsel on tax and municipal finance issues and he was charged with the crimes in March 2010 after a local school superintendent apparently made some inquiries and discrepancies were found in his presentations which showed evidence of the fraud. Greenberg Traurig immediately fired the lawyer after he was charged with improperly padding about $1 million worth of services. The lawyer had worked for the law firm since 2002 and had also represented several other suburban Chicago municipalities as part of his practice.
Amazingly, according to prosecutors, the lawyer did not use the funds for his own personal gain but included them in his billable hours at Greenberg Traurig in order to increase his standing at the law firm. For its part, Greenberg Traurig agreed to repay the city about $3.2 million in legal fees charged by the former partner for past work at a rate of $600.00 an hour, some of which was not performed for the village.
According to reports, the convicted lawyer’s criminal defense lawyer said that he is “extremely sorry for what he did” and feels terrible for “disappointing the legal profession and his family.” Interestingly, the Illinois State Bar disciplinary records apparently do not show any pending disciplinary proceedings against the lawyer but that may change very soon…
Bottom line: This is a very interesting case on multiple levels, including the fact that the lawyer was apparently using his overbilling to improve his standing at the law firm (which of course would presumably improve his future income and distributions from the law firm as well). Is there a lesson here?
…be careful out there!
| As always, if you have any questions about this Ethics Alert or need assistance, analysis, and guidance regarding these or any other ethics, risk management, or other issues, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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