NRA Bankruptcy Dismissed

Just a few minutes ago, Judge Harlin Hale issued his decision in the NRA bankruptcy case. In what can only be considered a blow for the NRA, he dismissed the case.

He said:

The question the Court is faced with is whether the existential threat facing the NRA is the
type of threat that the Bankruptcy Code is meant to protect against. The Court believes it is not.
For the reasons stated herein, the Court finds there is cause to dismiss this bankruptcy case as not
having been filed in good faith both because it was filed to gain an unfair litigation advantage and
because it was filed to avoid a state regulatory scheme. The Court further finds the appointment
of a trustee or examiner would, at this time, not be in the best interests of creditors and the estate.

I will say I expected him to take the middle ground of either an examiner with enhanced powers or a trustee.

More later after I have had time to read the full decision.

No Decision Yet In NRA Bankruptcy Case

Judge Harlin Hale has not rendered a decision yet in the NRA’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

Every hour or so today I would check the Federal court’s online website called Pacer to see if anything new related to the case had been filed. The only filing today was by an attorney who wanted to be admitted before the court.

I will keep a watch going tomorrow and every day afterwards until a decision is released.

In the meantime, the blog NRA In Danger has three new posts that are worth reading. The first deals with Wayne, the second with the Board, and the third with the timing of the debacle. I don’t know who is writing that blog but their observations are spot-on.

On Wayne:

From the first, LaPierre was in far over his head. He was educated in politics and made his living in lobbying. He had zero training and experience in lobbying, and now he the supreme leader of what became a $350 million a year corporation. It was as if you took a not-particularly-bright private and gave him command of a brigade. “What do I do now?”

La Pierre’s handlers, the real power. He reacted by relying on “handlers” and hoping they knew how to handle things. They made all his decisions. In theory the board elected LaPierre EVP, in fact they elected his handlers, Angus McQueen and later Bill Brewer. He became a figurehead while they dictated his decisions.

On the Board:

For most, it is the highest achievement of their life, their greatest boast, and so it is something to be protected at all cost.

Both of these observations perfectly correlate with what I’ve been told by former directors and other insiders. I don’t know what Judge Hale is going to rule but I really hope that he doesn’t accept the reorganization plan as it now stands nor does he leave Wayne in charge minus an overseer.

Closing Arguments In NRA Case

All sides had their chance to make their closing arguments yesterday in the NRA’s bankruptcy case. The morning session was devoted to the NY Attorney General, the US Trustee, and a few others with the afternoon being primarily the NRA along with short rebuttal statements from the NY Attorney General’s team, AckMac, and Judge Journey’s attorney.

The blog NRA IN Danger does a good job summarizing the arguments from the morning and the afternoon so I won’t go into much detail.

I listened in to parts of both the morning and the afternoon arguments. The most surprising came from Lisa Lambert who is the Assistant US Trustee. Her job is to represent the process and preserve the integrity of bankruptcy.

From what I saw and heard yesterday morning, she was on fire. I wish I had video to be able to post but that is not available nor would it be permitted.

Danny Hakim of the New York Times devoted an entire column to her argument.

The National Rifle Association’s hopes of end-running a legal challenge in New York were dealt a serious blow on Monday when a Justice Department official rebuked its leadership and called for the dismissal of its bankruptcy filing or the appointment of an outside monitor to oversee its finances.

Lisa L. Lambert, a lawyer in the United States Trustee’s office, which is part of the Justice Department, said the “evidentiary record clearly and convincingly establishes” that Wayne LaPierre, the longtime N.R.A. chief executive, “has failed to provide the proper oversight.” For a number of years, she added, “the record is unrefuted that Wayne LaPierre’s personal expenses were made to look like business expenses.”

She said that if an Examiner is appointed that they must have a budget much higher than the $350,000 proposed by Judge Phillip Journey and that they have power over spending.

Her comments flustered Greg Garman who is one of the bankruptcy attorneys representing the NRA according to Hakim. I don’t know whether it is because she didn’t mince words or because it is rare to have the US Trustee fire a broadside. Professor Adam Levitin of Georgetown Law said he thought the NRA was in real trouble if the US Trustee gets involved as she did. Professor John Pottow of the University of Michigan Law School echoed his comments noting it was very rare.

While Mr. Garman asserted the transgressions of the NRA were relatively minor and that it “had righted its ship” obviating the need for outside oversight, Ms. Lambert, the Assistant US Trustee, disagreed as she laid out episodes of corruption by LaPierre and others in the NRA.

Regarding the charter flights, she said: “LaPierre says these are for security, but the evidence says he picked up family. The evidence says that extra stops were not to be noted in the booking records. And the testimony is unrefuted that no N.R.A. policy authorizes charter plane flights.”

Mr. LaPierre’s close aide, Millie Hallow, even diverted $40,000 for her son’s wedding, Ms. Lambert noted, but beyond repaying that amount after she was caught, she “otherwise has suffered no additional consequences.”

Mr. Garman said throughout the trial that there was a “line of demarcation” in 2018, when the N.R.A. undertook a self-audit and corrective measures. But Ms. Lambert said the evidence presented in the 12-day trial showed that “even after the self-described course correction the irregularities were not fixed,” noting that, among other things, Craig Spray, the former chief financial officer, refused to sign the N.R.A.’s 2019 tax filings.

“The N.R.A. has stated that it is seeking refuge from the New York attorney general’s actions and wishes to change its state of incorporation,” she added. “That can be done outside of bankruptcy. It is not a legitimate reason for filing bankruptcy. ”

Judge Hale ended the hearing by thanking the attorneys on all sides for keeping it relatively civil and noted this was one of the longest trials in his career as a bankruptcy judge. He also jokingly said that this trial was not the reason he plans to retire next year as he had already announced those plans before being assigned this case.

Judge Hale ended by saying a written ruling on the case would be out by next week.

UPDATE: For more perspective on the closing arguments, please read Stephen Gutowski’s report in The Reload on the final day.

UPDATE II: Frank Tait has his impressions of the final day of the bankruptcy hearing here. I missed that part of the arguments about a contract with Marion “The Enemy Within” Hammer running to 2030 but I think any sane person would be appalled by it.

My own feeling is that the best outcome would be an Examiner with an ample budget and powers to make a difference. As Jeff Knox has said to me repeatedly, his fear of a Trustee is that he or she could decide to put the NRA into Chapter 7 liquidation.

What pisses me off more than anything is that just when we need a powerful NRA the most, it is distracted from its task of defending gun rights due to the corruption of Wayne and his cronies. It is beyond frustrating that the Board of Directors cares more about not offending Wayne and preserving the statue quo than about doing what it should be doing to clean house. I feel like invoking Godwin’s law to compare the Board to those Wehrmacht generals who supported Hitler even when they knew he was insane but I won’t. I’ll just say that not doing their job has put the NRA and its members in the position we are in today.

NRA Reorganization Plan

The attorneys for the National Rifle Association filed this reorganization plan with the US Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas on Sunday. I assume that it was approved by the NRA Board on Saturday. I say assumed as no word has come out of those meetings on whether it was passed, what the vote was, or anything else.

I have listened to some of the closing arguments in the case today. I missed the NY Attorney General’s closing argument but I have read that they pushed for dismissal. I did parts of the arguments of the attorney for Judge Phillip Journey and other board members as well as that by Lisa Lambert who is the US Trustee. Both argued for the appointment of an examiner with special powers. Ms. Lambert was especially forceful that the examiner have the power and the money needed to do the job. They both argued against the Chief Restructuring Officer.

I have only briefly scanned through the reorganization plan. However, from what I’ve seen it just moves the NRA to Texas, leaves the existing board in place, and says members now will be members in the Reorganized NRA.

If you do have the time to read through this and see something, please add you observations in the comments.

NRA Reorganization Plan by jpr9954 on Scribd

For Your Weekend Reading

The NRA Board of Directors is having a special meeting today in Dallas along with a regular meeting tomorrow on Sunday. The special meeting is to approve the reorganization plan and the Chief Restructuring Officer. This comes on the heels of the last day of testimony in the US Bankruptcy Court hearings.

Day 10, as reported by the blog NRA In Danger, had testimony from the NRA’s outside auditor and the proposed Chief Restructuring Officer as well as cross-examination of Wayne LaPierre. While there is a lot there and you should read it in its entirety, three things captured my attention.

This witness did not do well under cross examination. He argued he’d reformed everything, then was faced with improper events that occurred after his alleged reforms. His choices were to appear corrupt or to appear incompetent and out of control, and he went with the second choice.

That to me provides even more evidence to Judge Harlin Hale that perhaps a trustee is called for. As those who are no fans of Wayne but are really worried about the future of the NRA have observed, a trustee would have the power to convert the Chapter 11 into a Chapter 7 and dissolve the NRA.

The second thing that captured my attention was Wayne’s response to the NRA’s attorney Greg Garman when asked about his background and history.

Background. MA from Boston College in politics, VA legislature. Got Phd. Over at DNC, knew NRA people, NRA right across street. Went into NRA building, they offered me job, late 1977. State liaison for year, then director state local. 1 year, then head govt affairs, in 1980. Membership now 4.9 million. Tried convert NRA into freedom organization. Outreach to celebrities. Celebrity shoots in Hollywood, dinners, etc.

Wayne does not have a PhD. He may have been in a PhD program in political science at BC but he never earned a PhD. I was admitted to the PhD program in political science at UNC-Chapel Hill. However, I left with a wife and no degree. I would never, ever, claim to hold a PhD if I hadn’t earned it. It just isn’t done and is consummately tacky.

Finally, there is Judge Hale’s question that he ordered the attorneys for both sides to answer on Monday. Judge Hale may be nicknamed “Cooter” but he is no fool.

Judge asks question, to be answered in arguments Monday (no court Friday)—chapter 11 purpose is to save company from liquidation bankruptcy. Does court have jurisdiction where sole purpose is to save company from dissolution under state law, which dissolution will only occur if the state court concludes dissolution is in best interests of public?

The blog NRA In Danger examines Judge Hale’s question in more detail. It is the critical question: does the court have jurisdiction? If not, then the case must be dismissed and the NYAG is free to continue in her attempt to dissolve the NRA.

Her dissolution suit has been strengthened by the bankruptcy court revelations. Just the lad day of testimony saw Wayne LaPierre claiming that he’d begun cleaning everything up in 2017, but forced to admit that he’d been given an incredibly lucrative “golden parachute” agreement in mid-2018 (it would have given him many millions had the board ever stopped electing him) that was signed by an outgoing president and Carolyn Meadows, now NRA president and head of the board’s Special Litigation Committee. The signing of the contract implicates NRA’s current board leadership, and also LaPierre himself, and shows his supposed 2017 reforms are. sham. He himself is free to loot despite them. On the same day those board officers signed another golden parachute for Woody Phillips, the NRA treasurer who had to “take the Fifth” dozens of times in his testimony. Others who got such agreements, LaPierre testified he had no idea of the contracts, showing that even if he were honest, in practice others are free to loot NRA at will without his being able to discover it.

Read the whole thing.

Moving on, a column by Stephen Gutowski on his new platform The Reload examines what he calls the membership program. In 2013, Wayne promised to double the membership after it had just hit five million members. Membership now stands at 4.89 million members. Not only has membership not doubled under Wayne’s most recent watch but it has regressed.

If the NRA’s membership has hit a ceiling, that’s significant, and it’s a bad sign for the most influential gun-rights group on the planet. It’s also a bad sign for NRA leadership’s argument in their current argument in the bankruptcy case. NRA leadership has repeatedly argued the LaPierre is the driving force behind fundraising at the organization, and it could not operate anywhere as effectively without him. But LaPierre has not only failed to meet his self-set 2013 goal of doubling NRA membership; membership has actually receded by his own account.

There are millions of new gun owners out there. I imagine some may have joined the NRA this year but the majority have not. Moreover, if what I’m reading across the Internet in forums on hunting, on the Second Amendment, and the like is correct, then there are a lot of people refusing to renew memberships or to make donations so long as Wayne and his grifter cronies remain in power. I am hearing this from both Gun Culture v1.0 and 2.0. I know my own wallet will remain closed to the NRA so long as Wayne is there.

Finally, my friend Kevin Creighton has an excellent post about the NRA’s fund raising approach. He notes Stephen Gutowski’s column on the NRA’s negative growth and relates it to their fund raising approach.

However, let’s face facts. For over 10 years now, the NRA’s primary messaging has been “Give us money, they’re a-comin’ for yer guns.” Okay, fine, let’s say they actually ARE coming for our guns. What have you, the NRA, done to prevent that from happening? What value am I getting for my donation? Why should I give to you right now, except out of habit?

Kevin relates his success fund raising for a faith-based organization using a positive approach. He urges the NRA to get away from the negative approach and return to the more positive approach of the past. Then, both money and membership might grow.

If you are a NRA member or were at one time, you really need to read all these blog posts and articles. Those of us who want a reformed NRA may be voices crying in the wilderness like the Old Testament prophets but the fight for the Second Amendment depends upon it.

Another NRA Board Special Meeting

Stephen Gutowski of The Reload is reporting that a special meeting of the Board of Directors has been called for May 1st in Dallas. The purpose of this meeting is to approve a reorganization plan that the NRA plans to present to the US Bankruptcy Court.

They plan to have a regular Board meeting on Sunday, May 2nd.

This meeting comes after two weeks of testimony before Judge Hale in the US Bankruptcy Court. As Gutowski, myself, and others have noted, this testimony has brought out many questionable financial practices involving Wayne LaPierre, his executive assistant Millie Hallow, and former CFO Woody Phillips.

As Gutowski notes regarding the meeting:

The NRA did not respond to a request for comment on the special board meeting, but there is a possibility the meeting won’t even take place. The current portion of the bankruptcy trial is set to end on April 23, and the judge is supposed to issue an order in the case by April 30. If the judge decides to appoint a trustee or dismiss the case, it is possible the group won’t have an opportunity to present the restructuring plan the board is set to review on May 1. A trustee could also fire current leadership and the board of directors before the meeting occurs.

The US Trustee has objected to the appointment of a Chief Restructuring Officer as proposed by the NRA. The US Trustee noted that the CRO would report to Wayne and the Special Litigation Committee composed of Meadows, Cotton, and Lee. Thus, the CRO would not be independent and could not be independent without bylaw changes by the NRA.

As the blog NRA In Danger points out:

The US Trustee did a better job of reading NRA’s Bylaws than did NRA’s attorneys. He points out that the CRO might be an NRA officer and the Bylaws say only the members can create a new NRA officer,

“It is not clear whether the NRA’s bylaws permit the creation of a chief restructuring officer position. The NRA’s most recent Bylaws incorporate input from the NRA’s membership and confer limited authority to officers and committees. The NRA’s Bylaws state that certain “AMENDMENTS IN BOLD FACE ITALICS SHALL NOT BE REPEALED OR AMENDED BY THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS.” Instead, Article XV, Section 4, reserves authority to amend bylaws in bold and italics to the NRA’s membership. Article V, Section 1(b), describes the specific officer positions, and in bold italics, states “The Board may not abolish said offices nor create any other offices.” 

There is another hearing scheduled before Judge Hale this afternoon at 4pm CDT. It will be interesting to hear what comes out of that meeting.

You will note that I did not say that Stephen Gutowski is with the Free Beacon. He left them on Friday and is now out on his own with The Reload. I would urge you to check it out and subscribe if you think it worthwhile. I did and I’m looking forward to his continued reporting on all things gun-related.

They Can’t Claim Ignorance Any More

The NRA Board of Directors has long relied upon the word of EVP Wayne LaPierre for virtually everything. If a disturbing matter was brought up to them, they, for the most part, would say something like, “Well, I talked to Wayne and he said blah, blah, blah.” They considered this as doing their duty of care as a Board member.

As I pointed out in my post on fiduciary duties, duty of care means to give “reasonable attention and care to providing oversight.” Under New York public charities law, that includes knowledge of the organization’s finances.

Over the last few days, I have listened intermittently to the hearings held on the NRA’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy. I have also read synopses of these hearings on other sites. Some of the things I heard had me shaking my head while shouting at the computer, “How could you not know?”

For example, Wayne LaPierre testified before the court that he had no knowledge of the consulting contract awarded to former CFO Woody Phillips and that he had only recently learned of it. The contract in question was for $30,000 monthly to run for four full years. The total value of the contract would then be worth $1,440,00. How can a CEO not know that his recently retired CFO just got a contract worth over $1.4 million?

The one thing I do believe that came out of Wayne’s rambling testimony is his acknowledgement that he didn’t inform the Board of his intention to seek bankruptcy before filing it. If he had, I believe more Board members would have reacted at the time like Judge Phil Journey saying “we didn’t authorize that.” Their ex post facto motion saying they authorized filing bankruptcy then and now is frankly nothing more than a cover garment.

On Friday I listened to live testimony from Wayne’s former BFF Tony Makris as well as AckMac CFO Bill Winkler. A deposition of former NRA CFO Woody Phillips was also read into the record with one NYAG attorney reading the questions and another reading Phillips’ response. The key thing that was continually pointed out by Makris and Winkler is that the vague invoices sent by AckMac were at the direct request of Wayne. This continued even after a new agreement was reached that stated the only deviations had to be in writing from Wayne as EVP. Wayne, of course, still continued with his way of not putting his wishes in writing. Greg Garman, one of the NRA’s attorney, pounded on AckMac’s Bill Winkler about ignoring the letter of the contract and going along with how things had been done in the past. I think this was a strategic mistake on his part as it opens the door to questioning similar vague invoices from Brewer, Attorneys and Counselors.

I should note here that Woody Phillips’ testimony primarily consisted of him saying, “I decline to answer based on the privilege accorded me by 5thamendment of the US Constitution.” The one thing I can say about that is that you can’t be accused of perjury if you always take the Fifth.

As I said in the headline, the NRA Board of Directors cannot claim ignorance any longer. The beauty of WebEx is that it does a good job of capturing who is participating or listening in to an event. In this case, I saw reporters such as Danny Hakim of the NY Times, Mark Maremont of the Wall Street Journal, and Stephen Gutowski of the Free Beacon. I also counted at least six Board members listening in. They included Carrie Lightfoot, Anthony Colandro, Joel Friedman, Linda Walker, Howard “Walt” Walters, and Judge Phil Journey (who I expected to listen in). There may have been more as there were people who logged on by phone and not by computer.

My point is that after multiple days of testimony and over 600 documents, pleadings, exhibits, motions, and replies, it is impossible for anyone on the Board to say they don’t know what is going on. If they do, then they need to resign.

A New Must Read Blog

A friend sent me a link to a new blog called, “NRA in Danger.”

Having read all of their postings, I’d say it is a must-read blog especially for any NRA member who is concerned about the bankruptcy filing, the organization’s future, and the shenanigans played by Wayne and company. I don’t know who is writing this blog but I have found their reporting on the NRA’s bankruptcy hearings astute and incisive.

Here is how they describe themselves:

We are a group of NRA members, all life or above, who are concerned about where our organization is being taken. In 2019, the 150 year-old NRA, the oldest civil rights organization in the country, was rocked by financial scandals. The New York Attorney General (It’s a New York corporation) sued to dissolve its corporate charter, to kill it as a corporation. Since then its leadership and Board of Directors has consistently made the worst possible decisions, feeding her ammunition. A good move would have been to announce it was concerned about the allegations, was going to seriously investigate, and remove or otherwise punish those responsible. She’d have had no case then, yes there were problems, and NRA’s board is curing them.

Instead, the choice was to purge those who supported an investigation, threaten any who might join them, cover up everything, keep those responsible, and hand them big bonuses. Members were told that nothing was wrong, her case was all lies and posed no danger. Then the Board filed for bankruptcy, spending millions to escape from that supposedly harmless suit.

The members deserve truth, and we will do our imperfect best to give it to them.

We can be contacted at: NRAlifer -at- protonmail.com

I have only listened to some of the bankruptcy hearings. However, this one part from Day Five which included testimony from Judge Phil Journey just infuriated me.

At board special meeting in March, he was told his motion made him an enemy of NRA’s position. Charles Cotton asked that anyone adverse to NRA not attend executive session, while staring at him. He attended anyway. Got up to speak at microphone, chair ignored him, refused to call on him and he eventually sat down. When they went back into open session he asked to speak on a point of personal privilege, his honor had been impugned, and people shouted him down and Willis Lee, 2nd VP and chair, ruled him out of order. So he was prevented from speaking to the rest of the board about the issues and why he had filed.

A majority of the Board and especially the leadership are acting like petulant children. Their actions are more reminiscent of the behavior of members of the Soviet Politburo towards someone who had fallen out of Stalin’s favor.

I will freely admit that I was taken in by Willes Lee. I endorsed him not once but twice. I regret ever urging anyone to vote for that snake in the grass. The best I can say in my defense is that Willes was very good at cozying up to and playing members of the Second Amendment new media. That is, until he got what he wanted. Now we are yesterday’s news and treated like untermensch.

NRA Bankruptcy Hearing

The US Bankruptcy Court for the Northern Texas District is holding a live hearing on the NRA’s bankruptcy petition today. You can watch it live using this link: https://us-courts.webex.com/webappng/sites/us-courts/dashboard/pmr/hale

I believe this is the third day of the hearing and the witness is NRA EVP Wayne LaPierre.

Wayne does not make a good witness. The judge has had to admonish him a dozen times or more to limit his answer to the question asked. His own attorney has instructed him to just answer “yes or no” when asked that kind of question. On virtually every other answer, the attorney asking him the question has to ask the judge to strike part or all of the answer as being non-responsive and Judge Hale is sustaining that objection.

I believe every NRA Board member needs to be watching Wayne’s testimony. There are a few that I’ve noticed listed in the WebEx as being online. Given what I’ve seen so far, board members need to be asking themselves this question: Is it or is it not time for Wayne to retire?

I know what my answer is.