Litigation funder headed by tax-evader to counsel mass tort attorneys who spent all their PPP cash



Mass tort lawyers struggling financially to keep their cases going despite taxpayer-funded loans will receive guidance from a lawyer who, after pleading guilty to federal tax charges stemming from an alleged kickback scheme, turned to investing in lawsuits.

The Mass Torts Made Perfect virtual event Oct. 14-15 will include a discussion on what to do when the money lawyers took in the form of forgivable loans from the federal government disappears.

The litigation funder Counsel Financial is scheduled to present during “Mass Tort Financing During a Pandemic When Your PPP or Bank Funds Run Out.”

Mass tort lawyers will receive the advice of Counsel Financial founder Joe DiNardo, a former asbestos lawyer once suspended from practicing law for three years after pleading guilty to tax evasion. He was sentenced to two years of probation.

He had been charged with paying kickbacks to an Erie County lawmaker and union official who allegedly steered cases on behalf of the International Iron Workers Union to Dinardo’s firm that resulted in millions of dollars in fees in the 1980s and 1990s.

Ultimately, to avoid trial he needed only to plead guilty to filing false documents with the Internal Revenue Service about $44,000 he’d claimed to have spent on office repairs. He was alleged to have spent thousands on home repairs for the union official and also attempting to bribe a witness.

One investor in DiNardo’s company was former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has been fighting his convictions on bribery, extortion and money laundering charges.

Earlier this year, a federal appeals court affirmed three counts relating to real estate deals but struck down the convictions connected to his employment at Weitz & Luxenberg. He was alleged to have steered grant money to a doctor who sent asbestos clients to the firm, and the convictions on those charges were overturned because of a statute-of-limitations issue.

Perry Weitz and Arthur Luxenberg are also on the board of Counsel Financial. Their law firm took between $5-10 million from the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to preserve jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Plenty of plaintiffs lawyers took millions from PPP, and Counsel Financial’s involvement in the mass torts conference indicates it is willing to offer its own funding to firms that have blown through PPP money.

Under the terms of PPP, the government will forgive loans that are used to meet payroll and other specified expenses including rent and utilities. Many plaintiff law firms already rely on outside investors for their operating funds, including hedge funds and other entities that sometimes lend them money on terms that provide them a percentage of contingency fees. The PPP program therefore may be reducing the amount of money these firms need to borrow from other, more expensive third-party sources.

Legal Newsline previously reported on an advertising spending increase from the Florida firm Morgan & Morgan after it took between $12-27 million in PPP funds.

Other events not geared at actual courtroom activities include:

-Generating Leads in the Age of COVID – What’s Working?

-Third-Party Litigation Funding, the Health of the Plaintiffs’ Bar, and You, on which DiNardo will also be presenting; and

-Innovative Ways to Find Mass Tort Clients.

Some areas of litigation to be discussed are PFAS, Zantac, 3M military earplugs and talcum powder, as well as two events regarding coronavirus lawsuits (business interruption claims and university refund cases).