SEC Seeks Sanctions Against Three Akerman Lawyers in Discovery Dustup
Posted May 21, 2009 7:33 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
The Securities and Exchange Commission is seeking sanctions of up to $20,000 a day against three Akerman Senterfitt lawyers, a Miami solo practitioner and the company they represent.
The agency says the lawyers should be held in contempt of court and prodded to comply with discovery orders with the imposition of sliding-scale daily fines that end when electronic documents are turned over in a usable format and supplemental discovery orders are satisfied, the Daily Business Review reports. The fines would start at $5,000 a day for the first five days and gradually increase over the next four weeks until they reach $20,000 a day.
The lawyers targeted are Leonard Bloom, Brian Miller and Ryan Roman, all from Akerman Senterfitt, and solo Robert Dunlap, the story says. The motion is pending before U.S. District Court Judge Jose Martinez.
The SEC says the lawyers, who represented U.S. Pension Trust, were wrong when they argued that documents sought by the agency were outside of the company’s control. SEC lawyer Amie Riggle Berlin also said at an April 20 hearing that the lawyers turned over an entire company database—in Spanish—without earmarking pertinent files.
The company has been accused of cheating investors out of $178 million.
During the hearing, Berlin also accused Miller of "confusing fact with fiction" and rewriting the history of the case, the story says.
Bloom told the Business Review that U.S. Pension Trust complied with all discovery requests after the April 20 hearing. "We've responded to the discovery dispute, which was resolved by the magistrate," Bloom said. A reply to the SEC contempt motion says the sanction request is without merit. More than 7,200 pages of documents have already been turned over to the SEC, satisfying discovery obligations, the reply (PDF posted by the Business Review) says.
Berlin, however, told the publication that discovery issues are still unresolved, and the SEC is not satisfied with defense cooperation.