Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lawyers Rake In Almost $28 million in Fees On Scrushy Case

The Village Voice recently ran an article knocking ABC's Nightline for producing a "puff piece" on former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, the codefendant in the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.

Birmingham attorney Doug Jones joined in the fun, helping the Voice trash Scrushy and his family, while harrumphing about the evils of fraud.

That's ironic because, according to court records, Doug Jones can count almost 28 million reasons to be thankful for Richard Scrushy. Court records also show that Jones has a mixed record on fighting fraud--becoming a self-righteous crusader in some cases, while conveniently ignoring other cases.

Speaking of convenient, The Village Voice failed to mention that Jones once led Siegelman's defense team while also suing Scrushy, Siegelman's codefendant. The Voice also failed to mention that Jones has worked on the Scrushy lawsuit with Homewood attorney Rob Riley, the son of Alabama Republican Governor Bob Riley and Siegelman's opponent in 2002.

Can we say conflict of interest?

What about all of those reasons that Jones should be thankful for Richard Scrushy? Well, a federal judge recently awarded almost $28 million in attorney fees and expenses in a lawsuit against a number of people (including Scrushy) and entities connected to Birmingham-based HealthSouth.

If my math is correct, the total payout for lawyers in the case is $27,937,317. And the case is a long way from being over. There's still more dough that Jones, Riley & Co. can grab.

Court documents indicate that some 50 to 100 plaintiff's lawyers are involved in the massive case, so the money will be spread around. But language in court documents also indicates that the majority of the bread probably will go to the two lead firms in the case--Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins, of San Diego, and Laboton Sucharow, of New York. The lead local lawyers, called co-liaison counsel, are Jones and Riley--and it appears that they, too, stand to make a bundle.

We have written several posts questioning apparent conflicts of interests that Jones and Riley had from their involvement in both the Siegelman/Scrushy criminal case and the Scrushy/HealthSouth civil case. For good measure, we have written that my unlawful termination at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) coincided with my first post about Riley's questionable involvement in the HealthSouth lawsuit. We also noted that Wyatt Haskell, founding partner of the Haskell Slaughter firm where Jones now works, has extremely close ties to UAB.

Well, it looks like Jones and Riley had almost 28 million reasons for ignoring their myriad conflicts--and perhaps striking back at a blogger who reported on those conflicts.

What about Doug Jones' mixed record on fraud? Well, we've seen that he was quite the crusader when he stood to make a bunch of cash on the HealthSouth case.

But what about other cases? Jones has been made aware that a company co-owned by his legal buddy, Rob Riley, has been charged in a federal whistleblower case with committing health-care fraud. That involves a company called Performance Group LLC, in which Riley is partners with several physicians/staff members from UAB.

Is Doug Jones concerned when Rob Riley and individuals from UAB apparently are involved in fraud? Doesn't look like it. In fact, he seems to embrace them.

And what about Paul Bryant Jr., a member of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees and CEO of the Greene Group Inc.? One of Bryant's company's, Alabama Reassurance, was implicated in a massive fraud scheme that resulted in a 15-year prison sentence for a Pennsylvania lawyer named Allen W. Stewart.

We have reported on Paul Bryant Jr.'s close ties to fraud and included this information:

Bryant and his company, Alabama Reassurance, came through the episode virtually unscathed. Sources tell Legal Schnauzer that a full-bore investigation of Alabama Re was to commence once the Stewart conviction was secured. In fact, Caryl Privett--then U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and now a Jefferson County Circuit judge--reportedly had promised investigators that they could go after Alabama Re once the Stewart trial was over.

By then, however, Privett was out of office, and someone in the U.S. Department of Justice called off the Alabama Re investigation. One can only wonder if Bryant's company has forsaken the fraudulent business practices that were revealed in the Stewart trial. One can also wonder who cut Bryant and his company a break--and why.

Sources tell Legal Schnauzer that the investigation into Alabama Reassurance was called off after Privett's successor took office. And who was her successor? None other than Doug Jones.

Isn't that interesting? Did Doug Jones help cover up fraud connected to Paul Bryant Jr. while riding a white charger in the Richard Scrushy case?

We'll continue to research that issue. Meanwhile Village Voice portrays Doug Jones as an authoritative voice to speak out against fraud. Maybe the Voice needs to check into the backgrounds of its "authorities" more closely.

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