NEW ORLEANS—An infamous Las Vegas attorney has been accused of misconduct by the Nevada State Bar Association for his involvement in an apparent kickback scheme in a 2010 British Petroleum oil spill settlement.
In a complaint filed Feb. 23, the State Bar of Nevada’s Office of Bar Counsel accused personal injury attorney Glen Lerner of engaging in “acts of misconduct warranting the imposition of professional discipline.”
“It is encouraging that the State Bar of Nevada has finally filed a formal complaint against Glen Lerner for his questionable behavior in the BP oil spill settlement,” Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch Executive Director Melissa Landry told the Louisiana Record.
Such a complaint could lead to Lerner’s suspension or disbarment.
“It was more than two years ago that U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier first recommended that [Lerner] should be investigated by the disciplinary arms of the Louisiana and Nevada state bar associations, as well as the federal ethics panel for the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana," Landry said. “Two years is much too long for these serious allegations to go unaddressed. It is encouraging that the Nevada bar is moving forward. Hopefully, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board will quickly follow suit. When a lawyer behaves unethically, the administration of justice is compromised and people are harmed.”
Lerner’s attorney Dominic Gentile told the Louisiana Record his client has not yet responded to the complaint, but Gentile thinks his client will be successful in fighting back against the complaint because Lerner will be able to present information that Barbier never heard during a hearing in front of the Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board.
Barbier was concerned how money was exchanged between Jon Andry, Lerner and Lionel Sutton, Gentile said. The relationship between the three lawyers began when all three attended law school at Tulane University. When the Deepwater Horizon rig spewed 3.19 million barrels of oil into the Gulf, Andry and Lerner formed the Andry Lerner law firm to specifically assist oil spill claimants.
Barbier asked former head of the FBI, Louis Freeh to investigate whether the three attempted to “corrupt the settlement process.” Freeh reported Sutton was provided a secret $40,000 kickback fee to help expedite Andry and Lerner’s clients claims through the payment process. Sutton denied the money was a kickback, arguing the money was actually a case referral fee.
Lerner never lied to the court administrator about the money and that’s not the issue in this case, Gentile said. Everyone agrees Sutton lied to Lerner about the money, he said. But now the question is whether Lerner should have done more than just trust his friend.
“We say you can believe him,” Gentile said. Others say, Lerner should have asked more questions. “That’s where the line in the sand is drawn.”
Landry isn’t convinced this case is as simple as Gentile makes it out to be, however.
Lerner “has a long history with the State Bar of Nevada and has been publicly reprimanded numerous times before,” she said. “In fact, previous findings of unethical behavior are so shocking that many people question why he still has a license to practice in the first place.”
A hearing date has not yet been set at this time. Lerner’s fate will be ultimately be decided by the Nevada Supreme Court.