Business of Law

Ex-Client Sues Winston and Ex-Partner, Says His $1M Covered Uma Thurman Loss in Starr Theft

Following news last week that a former partner of Winston & Strawn had been both criminally charged and sued by the feds over his alleged role in a $20 million theft from a New York money manager’s investors comes news today that one of those investors has sued both the ex-partner and the law firm.

Jim Wiatt, the former chief executive officer of the William Morris talent agency, is seeking to hold both Jonathan Star Bristol and the law firm accountable, along with money manager Kenneth Starr, for $2 million allegedly misappropriated from Wiatt’s investment account, reports the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

Starr (who is no relation to the former independent counsel) has pleaded guilty to defrauding investors and is awaiting sentencing. His lawyer and a lawyer for Bristol, who has pleaded not guilty, didn’t immediately respond to requests from the newspaper for comment.

A spokesman for the law firm today referred the WSJ to its comment last week that the illegal conduct alleged by prosecutors was unknown to and unauthorized by the firm, which is cooperating fully with the feds.

And attorney Gerard Hanlon, who is representing Bristol, told the New York Post last week that his client is a good man who may have been fooled by Starr along with a lot of other people.

As detailed in an earlier post, Bristol is accused of helping Starr steal by laundering money through attorney trust accounts whose statements went to his home instead of the law firm.

The civil suit, which was filed by Wiatt and his wife in federal court in New Jersey, contends they lost $2 million earlier this year in improperly transferred funds that went through Bristol’s attorney trust accounts. Half of this amount, the suit alleges, was used by Starr to reimburse another client, believed to be actress Uma Thurman, for $1 million that Starr had previously stolen from her to help pay for a luxury home.

A PR Newswire press release provides additional details and says that the Wiatts are seeking compensatory and punitive damages from Bristol and Winston & Strawn for malpractice and conversion.

They are represented by David Stone of Stone & Magnanini. He reportedly told the Wrap that they are seeking $10 million in punitive damages.

Additional and related coverage: “Double Whammy for Ex-BigLaw Partner Both Arrested & Sued by SEC Today re Alleged Role in $20M Fraud”

Above the Law (June 2010): “Winston & Strawn Tries To Rewrite History By Editing Out a Problematic Partner”

Los Angeles Times: “Former William Morris Agency chairman sues to recover millions allegedly lost in Kenneth Starr Ponzi scheme”

Updated on Dec. 21 to link to subsequent Los Angeles Times article.

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