Schlueter v. Latek, No. 11-3679 (7th Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff owned a rental center and retained defendants, who provide investment banking services to the equipment rental industry, to help him obtain an investor or buyer. Defendants’ advice culminated in sale of a majority of plaintiff’s stock for about $30 million. Defendants billed plaintiff $758,675. Plaintiff paid without complaint but later sued for return of the entire fee on the ground that defendants lacked a brokerage license required by Wis. Stats. 452.01(2)(a), 452.03. The district court dismissed, finding the parties equally at fault. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, declining to definitively answer whether a license was required under the circumstances that a negotiated sale of assets fell through in favor of a sale of stock. Plaintiff is not entitled to relief even if there was a violation. Referring to the classic Highwayman’s Case, the court rejected claims of in pari delicto and unclean hands; plaintiff was not equally at fault. To bar relief, however, is not punishing a victim. Plaintiff did not incur damages and is not entitled to restitution. Plaintiff sought compensation for spotting a violation and incurring expenses to punish the violator, a bounty-hunter or private attorney general theory, not recognized under Wisconsin law. The voluntary-payment doctrine is inapplicable.