Economy Watch: State of California Says Attorneys Stealing Smaller Sums

It wasn’t that long ago when you couldn’t get a practicing attorney to even consider stealing anything under seven figures from a client.  And the Ivy League law school grads wouldn’t be caught dead ripping off anything under eight figures.

“It was considered beneath them,” explains Myron Mason Morganthaler, of the law firm Mammoth, Pervasive & Bland LLP.  “I can remember when even the associates turned their noses up at scamming anything less than $50k.  Now, we recommend that our female clients lock their purses in a vault in the lobby before entering the firm, and I don’t even leave change in my desk drawer anymore.

In a sign that the economy is getting even worse, attorneys including those with Ivy League pedigrees have been seen regularly robbing clients of amounts in the $3,000 – $4,000 range.  Most economists view the trend of lawyers engaging in petty theft as being a sign that inflation isn’t yet a threat and so the Treasury announced that it will be further stimulating the economy by getting involved in the funding of a few more “shovel ready” projects.  Over the next two months, Treasury will print up another two trillion new dollars and shovel them into insolvent banks and bankrupt conglomerates, according to a press release the department issued on Tuesday.

“I think it’s pretty clear that deflation remains a much greater threat than inflation,” said Major Fibber, a spokesperson for the Federal Reserve.  “We’re watching it very closely,” Fibber continued.  “If we start to see the attorneys starting to defraud consumers out of anything under two grand, we will act quickly and decisively to subsidize the amounts being pilfered by the lawyers, so as not to let it get out of hand.

In the Argentina of the the 80s, many people recount stories of Judges cleaning out the bank accounts of widows regardless of the available balances.  In one extreme instance, a federal prosecutor was apprehended just three blocks from a Lemonade stand and Bake Sale, being run by the School for the Blind and Disabled.  He had no more than $78 in his pocket, but authorities found a paper lunch bag in a nearby trash can with an additional $122 in it, mostly in ones.

One graduate of USC’s law school explained the disturbing economic news this way:

“I think the lawyers are just doing their part in a down economy to fit in.  We could be stealing larger amounts… heck… we used to be able to pocket three grand in photocopying fees, an overnight package, and maybe a messenger or two.  Now we wait and look for the people who are the poorest and then con them into writing checks for $3,000 or $4,000 before we head back to the office to listen to them whine into the answering machine about how they’re going to sue and report us to the bar.  It’s a hoot!”

The lawyers say they like to mostly steal from distressed homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure.  “That way,” Fibber said, “they don’t have that far to fall.  After all, they’ll be on the streets soon enough, so they might as well get a feel for what it’s like to be homeless and broke.”

One Dartmouth Law School graduate declined to be interviewed for this story.  He had a large piggy bank under one arm as he walked away hurriedly, stopping to mug a 12 year-old child a few blocks away.  We asked the child why he hadn’t run, and he told us that the lawyer was actually his father.

“At least he’s not ripping off my bar mitzvah money, or my college fund.  He told the whole family he’d be drinking more, but stealing less, so at least he didn’t lie to us,” the boy explained.

When will it stop?  When will our economy begin to see signs of recovery?  Not until the attorneys return to stealing on a much grander scale once again, on that we can all agree.

Not everyone is as concerned with the members of the legal profession’s willingness to misappropriate smaller amounts.  “As long as we don’t start to see the bankers begin to follow suit, I think we’ll be okay,” said Nickel Mickelson, a spokesperson for The White House.  “And there’s absolutely no indication that bankers will start stealing less in anyone’s forecast for 2010 or 2011.”

Charles Grinder, of the American Banker’s Association denied all rumors that banks were looking to start stealing downstream.  “It’s all nonsense.  Our members say it’s absurd.  They’re still depending on being able to steal the hundreds of billions of dollars and maybe even trillions of dollars being shoveled their way by the U.S. Treasury.  But we’ll steal whatever we can, from whomever we can… it’s a rich tradition… we always have and always will.

In a related story, the California Bar Association is taking calls from attorneys throughout the state who are unsure how much they should be stealing.  And California’s state legislature, in an effort to make sure that the attorneys get back to stealing greater amounts as soon as possible is moving to prevent attorneys from accepting retainers of less than $4,000 in advance for certain types of clients.  Whether that will be effective, remains uncertain.

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