Legal Ethics

Maine Law Firm Axes Former Chair, Alleges Theft

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A major law firm in Maine has reportedly sent a 29-year attorney packing and mailed a letter to 1,000 clients alleging that he misappropriated funds.

Verrill Dana “severed its relationship” with longtime partner John Duncan, a former chairman of the law firm’s executive board, after he “misappropriated” firm funds and “misused client funds or billed clients improperly,” according to a letter the firm sent clients last month, reports the Portland Press-Herald. It notes that the firm promised to compensate anyone harmed by Duncan.

According to partner Gregg Ginn, Duncan’s legal secretary raised a red flag in June, when she allegedly discovered that he had written $77,500 in checks to himself from a client’s account. The firm investigated, but did not have a complete picture of the situation until months later, when an audit revealed possible criminal activity. However, Ginn admits that “Verrill Dana itself could face penalties for not reporting the information sooner,” as the Press-Herald puts it.

Ginn said the firm declined to accept Duncan’s resignation in June, and expected to work with him, as it watched him closely, to resolve privately what it thought was a more limited problem, the article explains.

“There was a time that John was profusely apologetic, remorseful and regretting what he had done,” Ginn tells the newspaper. “He maintained it was a matter of funds that were earned and should have been deposited to the firm’s account. … We were eliciting his support and cooperation. We thought there was a single client and a single account.”

Duncan did not return phone messages from the newspaper. He had been at Verrill Dana for just short of 30 years, after graduating from law school at the University of Virginia in 1978, and focused his practice on trusts and estates and wills.

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