Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Bread of Shame or Every Road Is a Toll Road

The guy in the picture is Melbourne Mills, the Kentucky Supreme Court permanently disbarred him despite an acquittal on fraud charges stemming from his participation in the theft of millions of dollars stolen from clients involved in fen-phen settlements and verdicts. Two of his close colleagues are doing +20 year prison terms for their roles in the theft of millions of dollars from clients.  The story is a nearly perfect example of the concept, Bread of Shame which can be expressed another way:  every road is a toll road.  The following is an excerpt from Andrew Wolfson's article at the Courier-Journal's website:

In a unanimous opinion, the Kentucky Supreme Court said it was stripping Mills of his license for violating 17 ethics rules, including taking more than $100 million in fees, with Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion, from Kentucky's $200 million settlement of the state diet-drug case.

Cunningham and Gallion were permanently disbarred in 2008.

Lexington attorney Angela Ford, who won a $42 million civil judgment against the three lawyers on behalf of their former clients, said in a phone interview that she would have been surprised if the court imposed a sanction of less than permanent disbarment for Mills.  But she said the court, by holding Mills accountable for failing to step in and stop the other two lawyers, sent 'a strong message on the duties of co-counsel -- you can't protect yourself by turning your head.' He was found not guilty after claiming at a criminal trial that he was too drunk to have joined in the conspiracy of co-defendants Gallion and Cunningham.

But a Kentucky Bar Association hearing officer found that [Mills] was cogent enough to have understood his duties, and the Supreme Court said that while [Mills] had misgivings about the propriety of the settlement, [Mills] took no immediate steps to stop it.

Under their contingency-fee contracts, Mills, Cunningham and Gallion should have been paid about $60 million of the $200 million settlement. Instead, they took $94.6 million for themselves and others, including consultants, administrators and lawyers, and put another $20 million into the foundation, which Cunningham and Gallion and others paid themselves to manage.

Cunningham and Gallion were convicted of fraud and sentenced last August to 20 and 25 years in prison, respectively. Cunningham, who is at a federal minimum-security prison in Yazoo, Miss., is eligible for release Aug. 15, 2025. Gallion, who is in a medium-security prison in Glenville, W.Va., has a release date of Dec. 8, 2029.
Get this, these attorneys obtained a settlement entitling them to $60 million dollars, but that was not enough.  They wanted and they took $34.6 million dollars more.  

The idea of Bread of Shame relates to the unmerited receipt of value or wealth.  In the broadest possible sense this is seen with inheritance by the children of wealthy families from those who earned wealth to those who do not or did not earn the wealth.  The concept Bread of Shame holds that those who obtain their "bread" without earning it feel shame and can not enjoy or appreciate the value of what they obtain.  The sense of shame is a form of payment, because the other concept as suggested by my rowdy friends--is that every road is a toll road. 

This latter idea was suggested when were talking about he stolen artwork from the Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris that occurred toward the end of last week.   Works by Picasso, Monet, Modigliani and Nevadomi were targeted or taken. Some genius, moi, was saying the only possible sane buyer for these famous works of stolen art is the insurers.  An admirer of this art who obtained them under false pretenses, could not possibly enjoy the art knowing that they were stolen and that anyone else who shared an admiration for the works would also know that the works were stolen.  Where is the feeling of joy that comes with possession of something so corrupt or logically so inherently dangerous to mere proximity? 

You see, you never get away with any bad act--even willful blindness as in the case of Melbourne Mills and the theft of millions of dollars in attorney fees; or, as in my case, with my blindness to my law office and tax obligations.   As my friends say, every road has its toll.  You will pay the toll whether you think you blew by the booth and no one noticed or not.  Perhaps it is a sense of shame, knowing that you have what you did not earn, or that you will pay a rate that is even more dear than you dreamed. 

There are times when the price paid for Bread of Shame has no known proximate relationship to the cost incurred like health and damage to reputation.  In the Hebrew story of King David, the King, God's favorite, paid a painful price for his sin with Bathsheba, and his crime against Uriah the Hittite.  You can be King and not enjoy the Bread of Shame.