Verdicts & Settlements

Nelson Mullins partner settles SEC suit claiming he helped pay-to-play scheme

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Updated: A partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough has agreed to pay $95,000 to settle a suit by the Securities and Exchange Commission that claimed he acted as a conduit for improper campaign donations.

The lawyer, Robert Crowe, settled the case without admitting any wrongdoing, the Am Law Daily (sub. req.) reports. He will pay disgorgement of $16,000, interest of nearly $3,900 and a civil penalty of $75,000, according to the judgment filed on Tuesday in Ohio federal court.

The SEC had alleged Crowe helped State Street Bank make campaign contributions to an Ohio official in exchange for public pension contracts. He was accused of filtering the campaign contributions through his personal bank account.

Crowe’s lawyers had previously argued that he didn’t know about the Ohio official’s scheme to gain from his political position, according to the Am Law Daily story. He also argued the SEC was wrongly trying to make a case of securities fraud out of an alleged violation of state campaign finance law.

Crowe, a partner in Nelson Mullins’ government relations group, is a former co-chairman for finance of the Democratic National Committee. He was represented by W. Stuart Dornette of Taft Stettinius & Hollister. Dornette told the ABA Journal that Crowe was willing to enter into the settlement because he wanted to move on with his life and avoid the expense of a trial.

Dornette said State Street Bank had been Crowe’s client, and he was asked to make the political contributions. The bank and a former bank officer settled related SEC allegations for substantially higher amounts in January 2016. The bank settled for $12 million and the officer settled for nearly $275,000.

A spokesperson for the law firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the ABA Journal.

Updated at 9:45 p.m. to include comments from Crowe’s lawyer.

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