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California State Bar investigating famed attorney Mark Geragos in fraud probe

SACRAMENTO — The State Bar of California said Tuesday it is re-investigating Mark Geragos, one of California’s best-known celebrity attorneys, and another prominent attorney, into how the money was spent. in a multi-million dollar insurance settlement related to the Armenian Genocide.

Geragos and Los Angeles attorney Brian Kabateck denied any wrongdoing and said he cooperated with previous bar investigations.

Geragos clients include Michael Jackson, Colin Kaepernick, Winona Ryder, Chris Brown and high-profile defendants including Jussie Smollett and convicted killer Scott Peterson.

The pair are caught up in an ongoing investigation into other Los Angeles lawyers, including Tom Girardi, following a $17.5 million settlement with a France-based insurance company. The money was intended for descendants of the 1915-16 genocide by the Ottoman Turkish Empire during World War I as well as Armenian charities.

“The State Bar is responsible for protecting the public. Confidence in our ability to do so has unfortunately been shaken of late by the Girardi case and what it represents,” said Ruben Duran, chairman of the board of attorneys. administration of the State Bar, in a rare public revelation. of an ongoing investigation.

He said the announcement is not in itself an indication of misconduct on the part of the lawyers, but stressed that “the status of the lawyers, or the size of their practice, cannot and will not d impact on our decisions to investigate misconduct”.

Duran did not release details of the investigation, which will determine whether a notice of disciplinary charges should be filed. Any such charges would then have to be proven in a hearing in state bar court and could result in attorneys being suspended or disbarred.

An in-depth investigation by the Los Angeles Times in March raised questions about how the settlement money was disbursed, including alleging that some of it went to “pet charities” from the two attorneys. as well as their alma mater, Loyola Law School.

Kabateck’s biography describes him as a former president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, chairman of the Loyola Law School board of trustees, and trustee of Loyola Marymount University.

Kabateck in a statement called the reference “to a world-class university that has established a highly regarded center for the study of genocides (such as the Armenian Genocide, Holocaust, Cambodian Genocide and other crimes against humanity) in as a “pet” charity is offensive and insensitive.”

Loyola Law School officials did not immediately comment.

“The undisputed facts are and always will be that an independent third party appointed, approved and supervised by the Court (as in any class action) distributed the settlement funds to class members,” Kabateck said. Neither he nor Geragos “have been involved in any decision relating to individual payments to victims, nor have they been in a position to decide, review or influence claims made by class members”, it said. -he declares.

Geragos, in a telephone interview, said he was “more furious than anything. Talking about no good deed goes unpunished.”

Geragos said he and Kabateck sued when they found out about the problem, hired an outside accounting firm, wrote a letter to the California attorney general outlining the problem, cooperated with a local prosecutor and survived three prior state bar investigations.

“This is nothing more than a face-saving move (by the state bar) in an almost unprecedented way, waiving the confidentiality of an investigation that has already been conducted three times,” Geragos said. “They’ll soon find out they’re going to look like fools. Frankly, it’s disgusting.”

In 2019, California attorney Michael Avenatti tried to tie Geragos to his defense as he fought charges that he tried to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to reveal corrupt practices involving college athletes. Geragos was a prominent CNN legal analyst for years, but the network dropped him after the allegations.

Avenatti was convicted in the case, and earlier this year, of cheating porn actress Stormy Daniels out of money she was supposed to receive for writing a book about an alleged tryst with former President Donald Trump.