Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals
Kourouma v. FERC
Petitioner, an energy trader, challenged FERC's order to pay a $50,000 civil penalty because petitioner had made false statements and material omissions in forms he filed with the Commission and a market operator the Commission regulates. The court agreed with FERC that petitioner's admissions supported summary disposition without a hearing; because petitioner's actions were worse than careless, FERC reasonably concluded that he violated Market Behavior Rule 3; petitioner's arguments under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 500 et seq., were without merit; and petitioner failed to show that FERC increased his penalty to promote general deterrence. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "Kourouma v. FERC" on Justia Law
Partington v. Houck, et al.
Plaintiff, an attorney, filed suit against the Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the Navy and others, alleging violation of his constitutional rights in an administrative decision which suspended him from practice before naval courts. The disciplinary proceedings stemmed from plaintiff's filing of an appellate brief containing statements he knew were false and misleading. The court concluded that the district court did not err in holding that the Navy JAG had authority to discipline plaintiff; plaintiff received ample due process and his Fifth Amendment rights were not violated during the proceedings against him; and the record did not support plaintiff's Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 551, 701, and 706, claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims and denied his request for mandamus review. View "Partington v. Houck, et al." on Justia Law
Saad v. SEC
FINRA filed a complaint against petitioner, charging that he violated FINRA rules by submitting false expense reports for reimbursement of nonexistent business travel and for a fraudulently purchased cellular telephone. In his petition for review, petitioner argued that the SEC abused its discretion in upholding a lifetime bar based on his violation of the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) Conduct Rule 2110. The court remanded to the SEC for further consideration, agreeing with petitioner that the SEC abused its discretion in failing to adequately address all of the potentially mitigating factors that the agency should have considered when it determined the appropriate sanction. View "Saad v. SEC" on Justia Law
So v. Suchanek
This case was before the court on appeal and cross-appeal from the judgment of the district court ordering attorney Leonard Suchanek to pay his former client, Kevin So, an amount representing a portion of the legal fees Suchanek collected from So, plus interest. Suchanek began representing So and So's agent, Lucy Yan Lu, in July 2006 despite the fact that he was already representing Land Base, a California entity that had entered into an agreement with So that was signed by Lu, to make investments on So's behalf. The court concluded that Suchanek violated Rule 1.7 by simultaneously representing So and Land Base in July and August of 2006; the district court's analysis of the second conflict period, between August 2007 and January 2008, was also sound; and the district court's order requiring Suchanek to deposit the trust funds in the registry was proper in light of Suchanek's history of moving So's money, without authorization, into other bank accounts - sometimes spending it rather than returning it to So or to So's trust account. Accordingly, the court affirmed the rulings as they pertained to Suchanek's appeal. In regard to So's contention that the district court erred in ordering disgorgement of only some of the fees Suchanek collected, the court concluded that the district court's error in assessing the conflict between Lu and So influenced the scope of the remedy it selected. The district court should have awarded a larger sum if it had correctly found a conflict during other parts of the representation. Accordingly, the court remanded the case for further review and issuance of a supplemental remedy, greater than the amount already ordered. View "So v. Suchanek" on Justia Law
Altman v. SEC
This case was before the court on a petition to review the opinion and order of the Commission permanently denying petitioner, an attorney admitted to practice in New York state, the privilege of appearing or practicing before the Commission, pursuant to rule 102(3)(1)(ii) of the Commission's Rules of Practice, and Section 4C of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 (Act), 15 U.S.C. 78a et seq. On appeal, petitioner contended that the procedure employed by the Commission was unconstitutional. The court held that the Commission acted within its authority in sanctioning him; petitioner was on notice of his duty to comply with the New York Bar disciplinary rules and the standard of conduct proscribed by Rule 102(3)(1)(ii) and Section 4C of the Act; there was substantial evidence for the Commission's finding that petitioner engaged in intentional improper professional conduct; and the Commission did not abuse its discretion in its choice of sanctioning petitioner. Accordingly, the petition for review was denied. View "Altman v. SEC" on Justia Law
Katz v. Securities and Exchange Commission
This case concerned petitioner's handling of accounts belonging to seven Wachovia Securities, Inc. (Wachovia) customers. Petitioner, a registered representative associated with Wachovia, a member of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), petitioned for review of an order of the SEC sustaining a disciplinary action against her by the NYSE. The court denied the petition for review and affirmed the SEC order because the court concluded that the SEC's decision was reasonable and supported by substantial evidence. View "Katz v. Securities and Exchange Commission" on Justia Law
USA v. David Safavian
A jury found David Safavian, Chief of Staff of the General Services Administration ("GSA"), guilty on four counts of a five-count indictment where his convictions were related to a golf trip he took with Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist, who had asked Safavian for information about two properties the GSA owned. At issue was whether Counts Three and Five should be vacated on the grounds of prosecutorial vindictiveness; whether Counts Two and Five should be vacated on the grounds that the government failed to prove Safavian's false statements to the ethics officer and to the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") were materially within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(1); and whether a new trial should be granted on Count One and Count Three where the district court improperly admitted evidence regarding the cost of the private plane. The court held that so long as Safavian's false statements were capable of influencing the course of the FBI's investigation, those statements were material within the meaning of section 1001(a)(1). The court also held that the district court did not clearly err in presuming vindictiveness on the part of the prosecution or in holding that the government overcame that presumption when it offered two reasons why the addition of Count Five was not vindictive. The court further held that its reasons for rejecting Safavian's arguments pertaining to Counts One, Two, and Three were the same as those of the district court and did not need to repeat them.
Knop, II, et al v. Mackall, Jr., et al
Plaintiff, a shareholder in Avenir Corporation ("Avenir"), brought a shareholder derivate suit naming Avenir and its three principal officers ("principals") as defendants and alleged that the principals engaged in various forms of financial misconduct as Avenir's managers. At issue was whether the district court properly granted attorney's fees for abuse of discretion to plaintiff where plaintiff originally filed in Superior Court and defendants removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia under 28 U.S.C. 1441, where Avenir's primary place of business was in D.C., and where the district court found removal improper under section 1441(b). The court held that the district court improperly awarded attorney's fees to plaintiff where Avenir was a nominal defendant and defendants' reasoning had at least some logical and precedential force behind it.