The Chicago law firm of Gardiner Koch Weisberg & Wrona, is suing their former clients Ken and Wendy Brown for breach of contract, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and conspiracy (interestingly, the article does not mention wrongful use of civil proceedings- we were unable to find a copy of the actual pleading). Ken Brown was a popular Boca Raton radio show host, with a show offering investment advice. Gardiner Koch lawyer, James Koch, defended the Browns in an action brought against them by the SEC. According to the article in Courthouse News Service: “Koch says, he ‘later learned that Brown had been sanctioned and accused of fraudulent dealings in New York, Florida, and Alabama.'” In 2007, Brown was ordered by a federal court to pay $9.6 million for violating securities laws. The Securities and Exchange Commission claimed he was “cherry-picking”: directing the fruits of profitable stock trades to himself or his firm and telling investors their trades had produced a loss. After the Browns lost the lawsuit brought by the SEC, they sued Gardiner Koch for legal malpractice. According to the article: “Defendants told Koch that they had filed suit against each and every law firm they had hired to as to shake down insurance companies.” The present action by Gardiner Koch stems from that legal malpractice action.
The professional liability avoidance takeaway is to vet your clients carefully. Had Koch done some research, he presumably could have found out that the client had been accused and/or sanctioned for securities violations multiple times before, and had “filed suit against each and every law firm they had hired.” Legal malpractice avoidance best practices include knowing who your clients are and why they have come to you.