Girardi bankruptcies lay bare the life of excess at the expense of others

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Thomas V. Girardi helped win jury awards for people whose lives and bodies have been ravaged by plane crashes, explosions, chemicals and prescription drugs.

But while presenting himself as one of the first plaintiffs’ lawyers, the man who helped make Erin Brockovitch The famous was said to use some of the millions of dollars he earned so others could support a lavish lifestyle, including an opulent estate filled with antiques, art and finery.

Girardi regularly used his clients’ trust funds “like his personal piggy bank,” said one of two bankruptcy trustees sorting through the more than $700 million in claims filed against the man and his now-shuttered law firm. The fund in which customer settlement funds are held in trust is short by at least $23 million, despite Girardi’s $41 million in deposits, company trustee Elissa Miller said in a statement. court documents.

In just one decade during his five-decade career, Girardi stole at least $14 million in settlement funds for himself and his celebrity ex-wifeErika Jayne Girardi, the alleged trustee.

In December 2020, the lawyer and the The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star have been accused in a Chicago federal lawsuit for embezzlement of money intended for those whom Girardi Keese LLP represented in litigation relating to the 2018 crash of a Lion Air Boeing 737 off the coast of Indonesia. A finding of contempt soon followed.

The fall that followed was rapid. The man and his company were forced into bankruptcy. Among the petitioners filing involuntary bankruptcy against Girardi and the company was his other partner, Robert Keese. A California Superior Court judge in June 2021 tried Girardi incompetent to manage his own affairs, and the following year he was removed.

Now two trustees in bankruptcy are trying to recover whatever money is left, tied up in assets or likely to be recovered to pay victims ranging from widows and orphans to lawyers and accountants harmed by its decades-long spree. To do this, at least in part, they liquidate a lifetime of trophies, including immovable, jewelry, rare books, a Steinway piano and a Pokemon card.

Bloomberg Law chart by Jonathan Hurtarte

More than $495 million in claims have been filed against the defunct Girardi Keese company, and another $243 million against Girardi himself. Any funds the trustees will get will be eclipsed by the hundreds of millions in claims and the oversight failure that allowed a prominent lawyer to continue practicing even as
over 100 grievances have been filed against him.

“When the driving is this awful, it speaks for itself,” said Robert Hillmanprofessor of law at the University of California at Davis and an authority on legal ethics.

The $8 million raised from the sale of Girardi’s 10,000-square-foot, seven-bathroom home on a nearly two-acre Pasadena estate will fetch approximately $551,000 after fees, deeds, taxes and warranty claims, Jason Rund, trustee of the individual estate bankruptcy, estimated in a court filing.

The holographic Pokémon card made $2,812.50 in one September 21 auction. A 1675 edition of The famous works of Nicolas Machiavelli sold for $3,250 and Blackstone’s Commentary on the Laws of England went for $1,000. A pair of men’s Gucci leather shoes sold for $1,062.50. These items and more fetched $493,341, according to John Moran Auctioneers.

A pair of six-carat diamond earrings that Girardi allegedly bought for his wife with a check for $750,000 drawn on a law firm’s trust account is among the bling and trinkets of the bankruptcy court approved will be auctioned on December 7, with an opening bid of $200,000. Erika Girardi is attractive the decision that allowed the sale of the earrings. The estate trustee of the company has for follow-up Erika Girardi alleging that the company improperly sent her $25 million.

Miller, in a contradictory procedure, said the ex-lawyer was worse than a “two-bit crook”.

Bloomberg Law chart by Jonathan Hurtarte

“The $2,000,000 that Thomas stole from plaintiffs in the Lion Air case, while shocking and inadmissible, is just the tip of the iceberg,” the trustee said.

Dozens of lawyers, including former partners, and law firms are suing Girardi Keese and Tom and Erika Girardi, seeking funds that are owed to them as professionals and their clients. Edelson PC, the Chicago-based law firm that was local counsel in the Lion Air litigation, in July filed a racketeering lawsuit against Girardi Keese, some of his former lawyers, backers and the Girardis, alleging they operated a long-running Ponzi scheme.

“The complaint paints the picture of an inverted Robin Hood”, Nora Freeman Engstrom, a Stanford Law School professor specializing in legal ethics, said in an email. “It depicts a business that robs the wounded, the bereaved and the destitute to give to the wealthy, to fund the lavish lifestyle of Tom and Erika Girardi.”

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