Girardi bankruptcies lay bare the life of excess at the expense of others
But while billing himself as one of the first plaintiffs’ attorneys, the man who helped make Erin Brockovich famous reportedly used some of the millions of dollars he earned to get others to back a style lavish living, including an opulent estate filled with antiques. , art and adornment.
Girardi regularly used his clients’ trust funds “like his personal piggy bank,” said one of two bankruptcy trustees sorting through the more than $700 million in claims filed against the man and his now-shuttered law firm. The fund in which customer settlement funds are held in trust is short by at least $23 million, despite Girardi’s $41 million in deposits, company trustee Elissa Miller said in a statement. court documents.
In just one decade during his five-decade career, Girardi stole at least $14 million in settlement funds for himself and his famous ex-wife, Erika Jayne Girardi, according to the trustee.
In December 2020, the lawyer and the The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star were charged in a federal trial in Chicago with misappropriating money intended for those whom Girardi Keese LLP represented in litigation over the 2018 crash of a Lion Air Boeing 737 off the coast Indonesian. A contempt conviction soon followed.
The fall that followed was rapid. The man and his company were forced into bankruptcy. Among the petitioners filing involuntary bankruptcy against Girardi and the company was his other partner, Robert Keese. A California Superior Court judge in June 2021 ruled Girardi incompetent to handle his own affairs, and the following year he was disbarred.
Now two trustees in bankruptcy are trying to recover whatever money is left, tied up in assets or likely to be recovered to pay victims ranging from widows and orphans to lawyers and accountants harmed by its decades-long spree. To do this, at least in part, they liquidate a lifetime of trophies, including real estate, jewelry, rare books, a Steinway piano, and a Pokémon card.
More than $495 million in claims have been filed against the defunct Girardi Keese company, and another $243 million against Girardi himself. Any funds the trustees will get will be eclipsed by the hundreds of millions in claims and the oversight failure that allowed a prominent lawyer to continue practicing even as
over 100 grievances have been filed against him.
“When the conduct is this horrendous, it speaks for itself,” said Robert Hillman, a law professor at the University of California, Davis and an authority on legal ethics.
The $8 million raised from the sale of Girardi’s 10,000-square-foot, seven-bathroom home on a nearly two-acre Pasadena estate will fetch approximately $551,000 after fees, deeds, taxes and warranty claims, Jason Rund, trustee of the individual estate bankruptcy, estimated in a court filing.
The holographic Pokémon card fetched $2,812.50 at an auction on September 21. A 1675 edition of The famous works of Nicolas Machiavelli sold for $3,250 and Blackstone’s Commentary on the Laws of England went for $1,000. A pair of men’s Gucci leather shoes sold for $1,062.50. These items and more fetched $493,341, according to John Moran Auctioneers.
A pair of six-carat diamond earrings that Girardi allegedly bought for his wife with a $750,000 check drawn on a law firm’s trust account are among the bling and trinkets the court of Bankruptcy has approved to be auctioned Dec. 7, with an opening bid of $200,000. Erika Girardi is appealing the decision that authorized the sale of the earrings. The company’s estate trustee sued Erika Girardi, alleging the company improperly funneled $25 million to her.
Miller, in adversarial proceedings, said the ex-lawyer was worse than a “two-bit crook”.
“The $2,000,000 that Thomas stole from plaintiffs in the Lion Air case, while shocking and inadmissible, is just the tip of the iceberg,” the trustee said.
Dozens of lawyers, including former partners, and law firms are suing Girardi Keese and Tom and Erika Girardi, seeking funds that are owed to them as professionals and their clients. Edelson PC, the Chicago-based law firm that was local counsel in the Lion Air litigation, filed a racketeering lawsuit in July against Girardi Keese, some of his former attorneys, litigation funders and the Girardis, alleging they were operating a long-running Ponzi scheme. scheme.
“The complaint paints a picture of a Robin Hood reversed,” Nora Freeman Engstrom, a Stanford Law School professor specializing in legal ethics, said in an email. “It depicts a business that robs the wounded, the bereaved and the destitute to give to the wealthy, to fund the lavish lifestyle of Tom and Erika Girardi.”