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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Law Firms Sued in Stanford Case

An investors committee in Dallas is suing law firms in Baton Rouge and New Orleans and five individuals for more than $337 million lost at Stanford Trust Co.

The Official Stanford Investors Committee serves as a watchdog over a court-appointed receiver for assets recovered on behalf of approximately 25,000 people worldwide who said they lost a combined total of $7.2 billion in savings to firms of Houston entrepreneur Robert Allen Stanford. Some of the investors reside in the Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Covington areas.

Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson LLP of Baton Rouge, and one of the firm's partners, Claude Reynaud Jr., are among the defendants named in the civil lawsuit.

Reynaud was a member of the board of directors of Stanford Trust Co. in Baton Rouge, according to the suit. Plaintiffs allege that Reynaud should have known that Stanford was operating a fraudulent scheme.

We didn't do anything wrong, "Scott N. Hensgens, managing partner for Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, said late Tuesday. "Claude didn't do anything wrong, either. We think this is frivolous."

Hensgens added that the Baton Rouge firm "fully supports discovery of the truth behind the activities of Stanford... and the recoupment of losses for any investors that were defrauded."

Hensgens noted, however, that the investors committee also filed suits last week against other defendants, including St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and several related charities.

The committee is seeking the return of $7.3 million that some Stanford businesses are alleged to have contributed to St. Jude and the other organizations, court records show.

All of the suits were filed shortly before the Feb. 17 deadline for such claims, Hensgens noted.

We believe that this last minute, shotgun approach is strongly indicative of the lack of merit to the purported claims against BSW and Mr. Reynaud," Hensgens added.

The New Orleans firm of Adams and Reese LLP is the target of similar allegations in the Dallas law suit.

Charles P. Adams Jr., managing partner for that law firm, said: "Adams and Reese has no comment other than to say that the firm has obtained a copy of the suit and looks forward to vindicating itself in court."

Also sued by the investors committee are former Stanford counsel Michael Contorno of Texas, and former trust officials J.D. Perry and Rebecca Hamric, both of Texas, and former trust official Louis Fournet of Louisiana.

Court records show the committee filed suit against the Louisiana defendants after winning approval for that action from Dallas attorney Ralph Janvey.

Janvey is the receiver who was appointed by a federal judge in early 2009 to track down and seize as many Stanford assets as possible for eventual distribution to investors who lost their money to Stanford’s ventures.

In a court report filed this month, Janvey said he has seized assets worth $188 million. But he added that his receivership team’s fees and expenses total more than $60 million. Janvey also said the IRS has a claim for $226 million in taxes, penalties and interest allegedly owed by Stanford.

The investors committee found attorneys in New York, San Antonio and Dallas, court records show. Committee members and Janvey stated in court records that those attorneys agreed to represent the committee for a contingency fee of 25 percent of all assets they recover.

Stanford, 60, has been in federal custody since he was indicted in Houston in June 2009. He denies that his sale of $7.2 billion in certificates of deposit at a Caribbean bank and other investments amounted to a fraudulent scheme.

The Texan was scheduled for trial last month, but won an indefinite postponement after his attorneys said he developed an addiction to prescription drugs after suffering head injuries during a jail fight.

Stanford is undergoing addiction treatment in federal custody, court records show. He is at the Federal Medical Center at Butner, N.C., according to the federal Bureau of Prisons" website.

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