United States v. Cunningham, No. 09-5987 (6th Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Defendants, two of three lawyers who represented several hundred Kentucky clients in a mass-tort action against the manufacturer of the defective diet drug "fen-phen," settled the case for $200 million, which entitled them under their retainer agreements to approximately $22 million each in attorney fees. By visiting clients and obtaining their signatures on "confidential settlements," for lesser amounts, the two actually disbursed slightly more than $45 million, less than 23 percent of the total settlement. The lawyers kept the remainder for themselves and associated counsel, transferring much of it from the escrow account to various other accounts, including out-of-state accounts. The scheme was discovered; the lawyers were disbarred and convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1343, 1349. One was sentenced to 240 months, the other to 300 months. They were ordered to pay more than $127 million in restitution. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting a variety of challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence and trial procedures.