Legal Ethics

N.Y. Gov Signs New Pension Law to Rein In Renegade Gov't Legal Advisers

By early next year, New York lawyers who erroneously wind up in the state’s pension plan could face hefty penalties.

A new law signed Friday by Gov. David Patterson makes pension fraud a felony, rather than a misdemeanor; allows criminal punishment of those who “improperly” receive pension benefits; and gives the state attorney general the power to seek treble damages from those who “fraudulently” receive benefits, reports the Business Review. It will take effect in 90 days.

It appears that the treble damages provision could also apply to legal advisers who are paid as employees for work that isn’t performed in a standard government office setting.

As discussed in earlier posts, state and federal officials have been investigating government entities throughout New York after it was discovered that some school district lawyers in private practice were being paid as employees rather than simply receiving legal fees for their work as as independent contractors. A number of lawyers have been removed from pension rolls, and some have also settled investigations by agreeing to repay pension benefits.

Earlier coverage: “More NY Lawyers Settle in Pension Probe; $1.28M Recovered to Date by AG”

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