Verdicts & Settlements

NRA general counsel violated statutory duties but caused no monetary harm, jurors find; LaPierre liable for $5.4M

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The general counsel for the National Rifle Association was among three senior NRA leaders found to have violated their statutory duties by jurors Friday. (Image from Shutterstock)

The general counsel for the National Rifle Association was among three senior NRA leaders found to have violated their statutory duties by jurors Friday.

Jurors found former NRA executive vice president and former CEO Wayne LaPierre liable for $5.4 million in damages and former chief financial officer Wilson “Woody” Phillips liable for $2 million. Jurors also found that the NRA didn’t handle charitable funds properly and violated state whistleblower laws.

But jurors found that NRA corporate secretary and general counsel John Frazer did not cause financial harm and was not liable for damages. Jurors found that he made false statements in NRA filings, but there was no cause to remove him.

Democratic New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the Feb. 23 verdict in a press release.

Law360, NBC News and the Associated Press have coverage.

James had sued the NRA and top officials for civil fraud. Her lawsuit alleged that LaPierre exploited the NRA for the benefit of himself and his inner circle, using donor money to pay for private jets, expensive meals and family vacations.

According to the press release, James presented evidence that Phillips allegedly had a no-show post-employment contract, that whistleblowers faced harassment and intimidation, that the NRA paid invoices for LaPierre’s repeated flights to the Bahamas, and that invoices worth more than $4 million were passed through a vendor to conceal expenses incurred by NRA executives.

LaPierre has already repaid the NRA more than $1 million, leaving him liable for $4.35 million.

A separate bench trial will determine whether an independent compliance monitor should be appointed. The trial will also determine whether the NRA and Frazer should be barred from soliciting funds for charitable organizations in New York.

A lawyer from Frazer, William Fleming, told Law360 that he is disappointed with the verdict.

In an online statement, the NRA said the jury verdict “confirms what the National Rifle Association of America … contended all along—that it was victimized by certain former vendors and ‘insiders’ who abused the trust placed in them by the association.”

“During a 24-day jury trial, the NRA established the [New York attorney general] cannot prove self-dealing or bad faith by the NRA board of directors,” the statement said. “The NRA disputed key allegations in the [New York attorney general]’s complaint—namely, that any governance issues at the NRA are ‘persistent.’ As importantly, the NRA established that it adopted new policies and accounting controls, displaced vendors and ‘insiders’ who abused the association, and accepted reparations for costs determined to be excess benefits. Most of these corrective measures—part of an internal investigation ignited by the NRA board—were adopted before the [New York attorney general] filed her lawsuit. The NRA’s commitment to good governance was on full display during the trial proceedings.”

See also:

“Civil fraud trial seeking independent monitor for NRA begins after CEO’s resignation, official’s $100K settlement”

“Ex-NRA CEO didn’t consult GCs office about key legal decisions, general counsel testifies”

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