Fired partner is accused of double billing, charging personal expenses to firm

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A former Vedder Price partner in Chicago is accused in an ethics complaint of double billing for legal services and charging the firm for personal expenses.

The former partner, Robert John Hankes, is accused of double billing more than $130,000. has coverage, while the Legal Profession Blog noted the Dec. 30 ethics complaint filed by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

Hankes worked at Vedder Price since he was hired in 2005 as a summer associate, according to the ethics complaint. He was fired in October 2019 after the alleged wrongdoing was discovered.

According to allegations in the complaint, Hankes’ misconduct stemmed from his representation of a financial institution in financing and leasing matters involving other companies. The financial institution’s agreements with the customer companies allowed them to be billed directly for legal services in certain circumstances.

In one legal matter, Hankes billed both the financial institution and one of its lessees nearly $24,000 for legal services in connection with a lease, the ethics complaint alleges. The payment from the lessee was applied to a once-dormant law firm account that Hankes reactivated and controlled.

Between January 2018 and September 2019, Hankes sent eight more fabricated invoices to the financial institution’s customer companies, collecting more than $108,000 that he applied to the reactivated account, the complaint says. He also allegedly billed the financial institution for the same services.

During those same years, Hankes charged his business and personal expenses to the reactivated account, receiving nearly $80,000, the complaint alleges. The billed expenses included golf fees, dining and travel expenses.

Vedder Price’s general counsel, Michael Mulcahy, gave this statement to the ABA Journal: “Vedder Price previously refunded all amounts due to its client involved in the Hankes matter. The firm has no other comment at this time.”

Updated Jan. 15 at 12:12 p.m. to include statement from Michael Mulcahy.

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