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More Verrill Dana Fallout re Former Partner’s Alleged $400K Theft

Posted Jan 15, 2008 1:32 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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The managing partner at one of Maine's biggest and best-known law firms has resigned his post in the wake of a former partner's alleged theft of just over $400,000 from the firm and some clients.

David Warren, who is credited with leading a successful turnaround at Verrill Dana after it went into a slump during a recession in the early 1990s, has resigned as managing partner but will continue as a partner in the Portland-based firm, according to the Portland Press-Herald.

As discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post, the firm fired longtime partner John Duncan and sent letters to 1,000 clients in November alleging that he had "misappropriated" firm funds and "misused client funds or billed clients improperly." A subsequent firm audit shows that Duncan, a trusts and estates lawyer who at one time chaired the firm's executive board, had embezzled $185,000 from funds that should have been shared with more than 50 partners, stole $109,000 from 10 client accounts over a decade beginning in 1997 and overbilled three clients a total of $107,000, according to today's Press-Herald article.

Gregg Ginn, a partner who has been acting as a Verrill Dana spokesman, says those totals could be revised upward as the firm investigates further and hears from former clients of Duncan.

"I think he concluded the best way to move forward and put the Duncan matter behind us was for him to make that decision," says Ginn of Warren's decision to step down. "I think he feels very clearly that his trust in John Duncan was misplaced, and he regrets that, there is no question."

Duncan's alleged wrongdoing first came to light when a secretary brought to the firm's attention in June that he had taken money from a client trust account. (She has since threatened to sue the firm, contending that she was forced to leave her job as a result, as an earlier ABAJournal.com post details. As she puts it, in a December Press-Herald interview: "They call me a hero. But they treated me like a zero.")

However, senior partners at the firm reportedly believed Duncan when he said this was an isolated incident and repaid the $77,500 that he had taken from the trust account. He was fired from the firm in November, after more alleged wrongdoing came to light.

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