You can read, here, the jaw-dropping Iowa Supreme Court opinion affirming a one-year suspension of Iowa lawyer Robert Allan Wright Jr.for talking his clients into loaning money to…that ubiquitous Nigerian Prince. Wright solicited more than $200,000 in loans from five current and former clients, promising them they would receive as much as quadruple their investment when proceeds of the inheritance described in that helpful e-mail was obtained. He was only going to take a 10% contingency, which is actually very reasonable…or would be, if this hadn’t been a scam.
After his clients lost all their money, Wright was cited for violations of several Iowa Rules of Professional Conduct, including…
- Rule 1.1, Competence (Ya think?)
- Rule 1.7 Conflict of Interest
- Rule 1.8(a) Transactions With Clients
- Rule 1.8(b) , prohibiting using information relating to representation of a client to the disadvantage of the client, and
- Rule 8.4, Misconduct
Neither the court nor the bar concluded that Wright set out to do anything wrong or illegal, and he genuinely wanted to make money for his clients. The court even hints that Wright may not have perceived the scam because he is a good-hearted soul who does a lot of pro bono work. That seems reasonable. (In fact, it seems he still isn’t sure that “one day a trunk full of … one hundred dollar bills” isn’t “going to appear upon his office doorstep.”)
What is troubling is that just one year from now, Iowans will be able to engage to advise and assist them regarding life and death matters a good-hearted, utterly naive and clueless lawyer who fell so hard for the Nigerian prince scam that he dragged his clients into it. He didn’t investigate, even to the extent of googling “Nigerian Prince.” How trustworthy is such a bumbling naif, no matter how big his heart, when his brain gives every indication of being atrophied?
Shouldn’t there be some threshold level of common sense that a lawyer must show himself to be capable of to continue to practice? Shouldn’t blowing hundreds of thousands in client funds on a transparent scam people have been making jokes about for decades be treated as conclusive evidence that the individual in question is too gullible to practice law, and should turn his attention to, say, street performing or selling neckties?
Pointer and Source: ABA Journal