Gangland Tactics or Aggressive Lawyering?
From Pierce Bainbridge to spin-off firm Hecht Partners, the lawyers affiliated with Rudy Giuliani’s “close friend” John Pierce have engaged in curious conduct. A recent report in Mother Jones perhaps generally aligns with other notable issues.
“We are building an army of killers on a highly collaborative platform.” — John Pierce, January 3, 2019, founder of Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP (“Pierce Bainbridge”)
“Our people must have not only thick skin but skin made of kevlar combined with titanium at times. The only lawyers who should join our firm are the ones . . . who can swallow some risk.” John Pierce, October 17, 2019
The “kevlar-skinned,” “risk swallowing,” “army of killers,” who’ve been affiliated with John M. Pierce, have engaged in interesting tactics while practicing law. Intimidation, lies under oath, deceiving clients, accusations of fraud on the courts, bullying the media, and amassing multi-millions in financial obligations while failing to pay debts as they became due.
In reviewing some of these issues, recall that Pierce himself publicly said “clients pick PB because our DNA is precisely the same.”
Perhaps fittingly, the client featured in Pierce’s statement was one of three convicted felons to hire Pierce Bainbridge, a civil litigation firm. The other two felons were Michael Avenatti and George Papadopoulos. The firm also represented Rudy Giuliani, Tulsi Gabbard and Carter Page.
Pierce promoting a felonious client appears to dovetail with a disturbing report published by Mother Jones yesterday — “She Witnessed the Aftermath of the Kyle Rittenhouse Shootings. Now She’s Scared for Herself.”
The focus of the article is the alleged harassment of a witness in the Kyle Rittenhouse case, as well as the alleged conduct — in a separate matter — of Amman Khan, former Pierce Bainbridge Los Angeles Office Managing Partner. Khan joined Withers Bergman / Withers Worldwide earlier this year after the alleged events at issue.
Both incidents have resulted in complaints to the California State Bar. With respect to the complaint against Khan, Mother Jones reported that the state bar closed the complaint “without formally investigating the allegations;” and that, Scott D. Karpf, a senior trial counsel for the bar wrote the “complaint does not present sufficient facts to support an investigation.”
It is an alarming article, yet, for those that have been following the saga of John Pierce and his former Pierce Bainbridge attorneys, the content is perhaps unsurprising.
Indeed, the legal environment surrounding Pierce for some time now could perhaps be viewed as leaning more “Gangland 101” than “Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.”
While Pierce represents Rittenhouse under the banner of “Pierce Bainbridge P.C.,” a troubling pattern of behavior commenced at Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht almost two years ago. It appears to perhaps have metastasized to spin-off firm Hecht Partners LLP, run by ex-Pierce Bainbridge named-partner David L. Hecht.
Pierce Bainbridge claimed to be the “The Fastest Growing Law Firm in the History of the World.” Pierce repeatedly made bombastic statements, like the one captured below, sentiments essentially echoed by his former side-kick Hecht.
Giuliani hired the firm a few weeks after Pierce’s statement above, and Pierce Bainbridge proceeded to “dramatically disintegrate.” A headcount of around 70 attorneys was reduced to almost nothing by May 2020.
New firms were formed by ex-Pierce Bainbridge partners including Hecht Partners LLP and Bradford Edwards & Varlack LLP, the firm’s General Counsel moved on to Goldstein & McClintock LLLP. Firm founder John Pierce formed “Pierce Bainbridge P.C.” and eventually was hired by Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse.
Pierce Bainbridge incredibly ran up a $70 million debt to lenders in just one year, while:
- not winning a single trial during the year,
- attorneys were leaving in droves,
- financial obligations to cash advance lenders in the millions of dollars were not paid in full, and
- vendors of legal services were allegedly stiffed.
Certain of these circumstances elicit a “Money Mystery” involving litigation funder Virage Capital Management, Pierce Bainbridge and Hecht Partners.
A timeline of events is jaw dropping.
While the Band Was Together
Pierce Bainbridge was founded under another name in January 2017. The firm became Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP in March 2018. The shenanigans commenced shortly thereafter. (As noted, Pierce is currently operating under Pierce Bainbridge P.C., his firm’s fourth name in less than four years.)
The $1 BILLION Misrepresentation. In May 2018, named-partners John Pierce and Carolynn K. Beck shared a memo with a litigation funder named Pravati Capital LLC. The general way the this type of “portfolio-based” litigation lending process works, is the firm provides a funder with projected case valuations, and presumably after doing its own diligence, the funder advances capital to pursue lawsuits based on the valuations.
The May 2018 memo claimed a case about the Microsoft Gears of War video game had “prospective damages of up to $1 Billion.” The so-called “Billion Dollar Case” went on to net $0.00 in recovery, yet Pravati loaned millions upon millions to the law firm.
By March 2019, Pravati said Pierce Bainbridge had breached their lending agreement and defaulted to the tune of $9.1 million. (The link includes public UCC regulatory filings in the name of ex-Pierce Bainbridge partners Douglas S. Curran, now with BraugnHagey & Borden, and Christopher N. LaVigne. Identical filings are in the names of over ten additional ex-Pierce Bainbridge partners.)
Jail Warning. In September 2018, a lawyer for Oscar De La Hoya cautioned Pierce about following the path of convicted felon and former lawyer, Marc Dreier, who “ended up in jail.” Time will tell if this lawyer proves to be prescient.
Unethical Surreptitious Recordings. In April 2019, David Hecht was involved in secretly recording a client’s litigation adversary at a social event; a federal judge penned an opinion that Hecht’s conduct ran afoul of the Rules of Professional Conduct on “dishonesty and misrepresentation.”
Potential Bribes and Criminal Activity Alleged in a Dismissed Bar Complaint from an Ex-Client. An ex-client reports Pierce to the California State Bar, referring to him as a “menace to the legal society.” The bar dismisses the complaint and notes: “With respect to the additional allegation that the attorney has taken bribes or is engaged in criminal activity, you may contact law enforcement. As a regulatory agency, we are unable to initiate or assist you with any criminal investigation.”
Potential “Criminal Activity” and Related Lies Under Oath. In May 2019, two firm then-Pierce Bainbridge partners, Denver G. Edwards (Bradford Edwards & Varlack) and Christopher N. LaVigne lied under oath in an effort to shield allegations about the firm from public view. The same allegations which Edwards himself said in a court filing riddled with demonstrable lies, “if true, would constitute criminal activity.”
Domestic Violence Restraining Order. As reported in Mother Jones, “in the course of a single day in [July] 2019, Pierce sent his ex-wife more than 60 texts laced with violent language after she told him she couldn’t drive their son to soccer because of a work conflict: ‘I will bury u if I have to,’ he allegedly wrote in one of the texts, copies of which were submitted to the court. ‘I will find u at Armaggedon [sic] and fuck u up.’”
In an interesting wrinkle, Pierce invoked his then client Tulsi Gabbard during his text onslaught.
Stonewalling Subpoena for Documents. In addition to securing a second restraining order against him, Pierce’s former spouse accused him of breaching child support obligations and his law firm, Pierce Bainbridge, of assisting in “stonewalling” a related subpoena for financial information.
Billing Over 24 Hours in a Single Day. An September 2019 filing by a Pierce Bainbridge adversary — “Defendants” — mentions “extremely troubling conduct” and “serious ethical concerns” related to “Mr. Dykstra’s counsel” (Pierce Bainbridge). An excerpt from the filing is illuminating.
Lawyer Close to Giuliani & Trump Quits for Ethical Reasons. Marc Mukasey, a close friend of Giuliani’s, who’s provided counsel for the Trumps’, and was integral in Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher beating the ISIS murder rap, quits representing Pierce Bainbridge citing ethical concerns.
Repeatedly Pledging the Same Collateral to Secure Millions in Cash. Pierce Bainbridge secured $65 million in capital from Virage Capital by pledging purported future firm receivables as collateral. The firm then secured millions more from at least four cash advance providers by repeatedly re-pledging the same purported receivables as collateral.
Essentially Pilfering $2.5 Million. In February 2020, the Los Angeles-based Pierce did business with a cash advance lender located at a residential address in Flushing Queens, New York. Pierce signed on behalf of the firm for $2.5 million in cash and agreed to make daily repayments of $37.5K until $3,750,000 was paid. Pierce and the firm breached the agreement and did not pay a dime. In July of this year, an almost $4 million money judgment was entered against Pierce Bainbridge and related entities in the lender’s favor.
The Firm Splinters & Shady Conduct Continues
Pierce Bainbridge splintered yet the curious conduct continues.
Indeed, several former Pierce Bainbridge former partners have been involved in attempts to bully the media, with David L. Hecht, now boss of Hecht Partners, leading the charge. Hecht — whose honesty and ethics have been called into question by a (i) federal judge, (ii) ex-firm associate, (iii) ex-firm partners and (iv) three ex-clients, and (v) potentially by his former outside counsel Marc Mukasey — has led the charge.
In the short time Hecht Partners has been in existence, Hecht has hired lawyers on three continents — in Ireland, New Zealand, New York — to attempt to bully the media in addition to Hecht’s individual efforts.
Lying to a Court & Related Intimidation Accusation. Less than two months after Hecht Partners was formed, an ex-Pierce Bainbridge associate accused Hecht of lying to a federal court. Exacerbating matters, a new outside lawyer for Pierce Bainbridge, was accused of attempting to “intimidate” the ex-associate from coming forward and exposing what he perceived to be Hecht’s dishonesty. While Hecht has denied this, as noted, his credibility has been questioned by a variety of sources.
Odd Billing Representations. After Pierce Bainbridge fell apart, there was uncertainty as to which attorneys at their new firms would keep an interest in the potentially lucrative Boeing 737 Max case. Ex-Pierce Bainbridge attorneys at another firm said David Hecht and Hecht Partners had no right to be on the case because firm billing statements showed that Hecht had not billed any time to the lawsuit. An excerpt from a Law360 article: “Pierce Bainbridge Breakup Sparks Rift In Boeing Class Suit” is illuminating.
This is akin to Hecht saying: “Oops, I forgot to punch the clock.”
Hecht’s own ex-clients in the Boeing 737 Max case said in sworn testimony that he deceived them. One of the ex-clients even suggested that Hecht pretended to be a partner at a firm where he does not work. Hecht Partners is no longer on the case.
Let that sink in. Imagine yourself in certain of those scenes.
A conscious decision to act like you work at another law firm, in order to get a client to sign up.
Perhaps also take yourself to a payday lender in Queens, New York, where you secure $2.5 million with no intention of paying it back in the manner agreed upon.
Or terrorizing the mother of your children.
Or allegedly lying to a court and then trying to intimidate a young associate from coming forward to share his version of the truth.
Or conducting your firm in such a manner that a lawyer tied to the Trumps, and long-time confidante of Rudy Giuliani, says the ethical bar is too low to be associated with your operations.
Or allegedly harassing a young witness in a double murder trial for simply doing her civic duty.
Mob Tactics or Aggressive Lawyering?
And this is only what we know.