Theft of client funds is a sure way to get into legal hot water. We have written before about lawyers who stole from clients, employers, and even attorneys getting into trouble because of what their partners stole, but few cases match the audacity of Douglas Arntsen. Mr. Arntsen has pled guilty of stealing over ten million dollars from two clients and using the funds to pay for visits to “expensive restaurants, sporting events and strip clubs.” The former Crowell & Moring attorney fled to Hong Kong after learning of an investigation into the missing funds.
According to the District Attorney’s press release:
“The trust between attorney and client is sacred,” said District Attorney Vance. “This defendant utterly betrayed that trust by stealing large amounts of money from his clients before fleeing to Hong Kong. Today’s conviction holds him accountable for fraudulent conduct that violated the law, abused his clients’ trust, and cost them millions of dollars.”
As we have previously noted, theft will always lead to violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Most obviously, a violation of law that reflects upon one’s honesty is a violation of RPC 8.4(b):
Rule 8.4 Misconduct It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: (a) violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another; (b) commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects;(c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; (d) engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice; (e) state or imply an ability to influence improperly a government agency or official or to achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law; or (f) knowingly assist a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct or other law.