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.

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.

Ridicule Is Man’s Most Potent Weapon

Saul Alinsky‘s Rule Number 5 states, “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.”

Mike Spies of The Trace understands this very well and just unleased a torrent of ridicule upon Wayne LaPierre. Somehow – and I have my suspicions – he obtained the lost and unaired footage from a 2013 African safari that Wayne and Susan LaPierre took that was to have aired on Under Wild Skies. That show was hosted by Wayne’s former BFF Tony Makris and was sponsored by the NRA. I have been told that Makris and Wayne used the show to reward LaPierre loyalists with a paid-for safari in Africa.

The footage is part of an article that is running in both The Trace and The New Yorker.

The footage of LaPierre in Botswana first shows him walking through the bush dressed in loose-fitting safari attire and an NRA Sports baseball cap. He is accompanied by several professional guides and his longtime adviser, Tony Makris, a top executive at the N.R.A.’s former public-relations firm, Ackerman McQueen, and the host of “Under Wild Skies.” The heat, at times, causes LaPierre to sweat. As he walks, his wire-framed glasses slide down his nose. After a guide spots an elephant standing behind a tree, LaPierre takes aim with a rifle. As LaPierre peers through the weapon’s scope, the guide repeatedly tells him to wait before firing. LaPierre is wearing earplugs, doesn’t hear the instructions, and pulls the trigger. The elephant drops. “Did we get him?” LaPierre asks.

The guide at first says yes, but then, as he approaches the elephant, it appears that the animal is still breathing. The guide brings LaPierre within a few strides of the elephant, which lays motionless on the ground. He tells LaPierre that another bullet is needed. “I’m going to show you where to shoot,” the guide says. “Listen, hold your rifle—I’m going to tell you when. Just hold it up.” The guide pushes the rifle’s barrel skyward as other men involved in the expedition move around in the distance. “I’m going to point for you where to shoot. Just waiting for these guys.”

Needless to say, Bwana Wayne botches this and two more shots. Tony Makris is the one who has to deliver the final shot.

It appears that both Wayne and Susan are using custom Blaser rifles with engraved actions and beautiful wood that I was told a while back were billed to the NRA. I wonder what ever happened to them.

As the video makes clear, Susan is the better hunter and much better shot than Wayne. She is also much more excited by her trophy than is Wayne who looks kind of befuddled. You wonder if he isn’t just looking for a place to go and throw up.

The whole episode brings to mind that classic Hemingway short story The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. While Wayne didn’t run in the face of the elephant like Macomber did in the face of the lion, it took someone else to finish the job. Moreover, Wayne comes off as a bumbling incompetent and not the great white hunter in charge of an organization dedicated to preserving hunting and the Second Amendment.

I know this is coming from the Bloomberg supported The Trace. As I’ve said in the past, just because you don’t like the source doesn’t mean it isn’t accurate. Spies gets his information right because he knows he will be sued every which way if he doesn’t.

I hope to go to Africa in a couple of years to hunt plains game. Unlike Wayne, I will be paying for the trip myself. Also, unlike Wayne, I plan to get in a lot of shooting practice in advance especially from sticks. It appears that Wayne was not that familiar with his rifle and it shows. When you are given the chance for the hunt of a lifetime, you damn well ought to be ready.

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.

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.

Wayne And DiFi Have A Symbiotic Relationship

I know this will either sound like heresy or cynicism but what would Wayne LaPierre and Dianne Feinstein do without one another?

Think about it.

Now that Feinstein has reintroduced her perennial assault weapons ban bill, Wayne will be able to send out hundreds of thousands emails and fund raising letters saying he needs the money to fight “Feinstein’s gun grabbing.”

Conversely, Feinstein will be able to use Wayne and the NRA as her personal whipping boys calling them “obstructionist insurrectionists” to both fund raise and to seek support for her bill.

Behind closed doors where no one can see either of them together, I would not be surprised to find out that they have a cordial relationship. Both are Beltway insiders who have been in DC for long, long time. Wayne became Executive VP in 1991 and Feinstein was first elected a year later in 1992.

Of course, that is just speculation but it is hard to see one existing without the other.

Fiduciary Duties And The NRA Board

The term “fiduciary” is bandied about without much explanation or definition. That said, it is a critically important to understand what it means when it comes to an organization.

Investopedia defines it this way:

fiduciary is a person or organization that acts on behalf of another person or persons, putting their clients’ interest ahead of their own, with a duty to preserve good faith and trust. Being a fiduciary thus requires being bound both legally and ethically to act in the other’s best interests.

While they are talking about a person who handles your finances, it is equally applicable to anyone who serves on the board of a non-profit like the National Rifle Association.

The website Charity Lawyer puts it this way when talking about the fiduciary responsibilities of a board member of a non-profit organization.

The board collectively, and directors/trustees individually, owe fiduciary duties to the nonprofit organization they serve. In essence, exercising fiduciary duties means that board members have a duty to act with care and in the best interest of the organization and remain loyal to its mission, as opposed to acting in their own interest or the interest of the CEO/Executive Director they supervise. (emphasis added)

So what are the fiduciary duties of a board member?

Under New York law a board member has three fiduciary duties: the duty of care, the duty of loyalty, and the duty of obedience. To assist new or potential nonprofit board members, the Charities Bureau publishes a booklet outlining what these mean. Using their words plus others let’s take them in order.

Duty of Care

The duty of care mean that board members should give give reasonable attention and care to providing organizational oversight. There is no precise definition of what is meant by reasonable but it should include, at the minimum, that members attend board meetings, they read the reports, and that they have knowledge of the organization’s finances. New York says that “directors must act in “good faith” using the “degree of diligence, care and skill” which prudent people would use in similar positions and under similar circumstances. (Remember the NRA still operates under NY law because the Board in 1992 ignored the warnings of Director and law professor Joe Olson.)

Among the item mentioned by the Charities Bureau on duty of care include a whistleblower policy, that the minutes reflect dissenting votes, that there is a clear process for major obligations, and that monthly financial reports are reviewed by board members.

I would say that Oliver North and Richard Childress were exercising the duty of care when they expressed concerns about the enormous legal billings from William Brewer III.

Duty of Loyalty

The duty of loyalty is owed to the organization meaning that directors are mandated to work in the interests of the organization and not their own self-interest. While the NRA does have a conflict of interest policy and disclosures are made, I have to wonder if it is anything more than lip service when someone like a Marion Hammer receives hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

Charity Lawyer notes:

The fiduciary duty of loyalty of board members is the responsibility to act in the interests of the non-profit, those it serves, and those donating funds for operations, as opposed to their own self-interest…

It can also be said that board members have a duty not to act in the personal best interest of the non-profit CEO (lead staff member) where that interest conflicts with the nonprofit’s best interest. Hiring the CEO, setting the salary, and providing oversight and accountability of such CEO, is among the most important responsibilities of a non-profit board.

The duties of care and loyalty are the basics of all fiduciary responsibilities. The law recognizes what is called the “business judgment rule”. This protects board members if they exercise these two duties with diligence and prudence as courts have held.

I came across this from the major law firm IceMiller LLP with regard to the fiduciary duties when dealing with an insolvent or near insolvent corporation. While the NRA asserts it is far from insolvent, they are, however, in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

Applying the business judgment rule, courts will ordinarily not scrutinize corporate decision-making if the decision was made through a valid exercise of the board’s business judgment. Essentially, corporate fiduciaries who act in good faith, make informed decisions, and do not personally benefit from their corporate actions can rest easier knowing their actions will not be scrutinized after-the-fact with the benefit of hindsight. The business judgment rule facilitates prudent risk-taking and forgives reasonable mistakes in judgment.

A recent interview that Michael Bane had with MidwayUSA’s Larry Potterfield brought something to mind. When Michael asked him about the NRA’s turmoil, Mr. Potterfield insisted that it was in fine shape and there wasn’t really any turmoil because that is what Wayne LaPierre assured him personally.

Think about that if you are a director and not merely a contributor like Mr. Potterfield. Would a court hold that the business judgment rule applied and that you fulfilled your fiduciary duties to make an informed decision if you merely relied on the assurances of Wayne LaPierre in the face of all the other contradictory information out there? I will get into more specifics in a moment.

Duty of Obedience

The duty of obedience means that the board has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that the organization is abiding by its stated mission and is complying with all state and federal laws. New York goes further and includes abiding by its internal governance documents and policies. In this case, that would mean the NRA bylaws and its internal governance documents requiring board approval for major contracts such as that with Brewer, Attorneys and Counselors.

The NRA’s stated mission on its IRS Form 990 says:

Firearms safety, education, and training, and advocacy on behalf of safe and responsible gun owners.

You may remember that US District Court Judge William Campbell, Jr. allowed David Dell’Aquila’s class action lawsuit against the NRA over misuse of donor fund to continue. He did dismiss it against Wayne LaPierre and the NRA Foundation but found that the expenditures of the NRA for Wayne’s clothing and trips and Brewer’s legal fees may not have been in furtherance of the NRA’s mission. That suit is on administrative hold while the bankruptcy is still ongoing.

NRA Bankruptcy and Special Meeting

The Board of Directors is holding a called Special Meeting this coming Sunday, March 14th, in Dallas, Texas. It is widely assumed that one of the action items will be an explicit ex post facto approval of the bankruptcy filing.

The sole purpose of the meeting is to provide a briefing to the Board regarding the NRA’s reorganization plan and the legal matters overseen by the Special Litigation Committee, and to take any necessary action directly related to those matters.

Judge Phillip Journey, a Kansas state judge and NRA Director, has asserted, correctly in my opinion, that the Board was kept in the dark about the plan to declare bankruptcy. The formation of the Special Litigation Committee never mentioned a planned bankruptcy as he told Stephen Gutowski of the Free Beacon.

Journey said he had voted to support the committee, but had no idea the group’s leadership and legal advisers had planned to go into bankruptcy. He disputed NRA filings that claimed board members were properly informed. Those filings were signed by embattled executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, who was not present at the meeting when the committee was discussed, according to Journey. The Kansas jurist believes the law has been violated and he has a duty to report it to the court.

“It certainly was a fraud perpetrated on the court,” Journey said. “I told them all when I got on the board, ‘Look, I’m a judge. I’m a mandatory reporter. Whatever we do, we got to be on the up and up.'” 

I believe Judge Journey not only recognized his fiduciary duty of care but his duty as a officer of the court when he filed his Motion for an Examiner. He followed President Ronald Reagan’s dictum – “trust, but verify” – when it came to assurances from LaPierre and William Brewer. He looked at the New York Attorney General’s dissolution suit and recognized that there was too much there to just pass it off as a vendetta against the NRA.

The leads me to the the US Trustee’s filing in the bankruptcy case objecting to the appointment of William Brewer and his firm as “special counsel”. For those that don’t know, the US Trustee is an officer of the court whose primary rationale is to “promote the integrity and efficiency of the bankruptcy system for the benefit of all stakeholders–debtors, creditors, and the public.” In other words, their job is to protect the process so it isn’t abused.

The US Trustee strongly objected to the appointment of Brewer, Attorneys and Counselors, as a special counsel to the NRA in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. They assert that the services provided by Brewer do not fall within the constraints of bankruptcy law and that it has “divided loyalties and conflicts of interest.”

They go on to add:

These disqualifying conflicts are compounded by BAC’s failure to disclose them in the Application and by BAC’s failure to disclose all of its pre-petition compensation

Among the things the US Trustee asserts that Brewer did not disclose were the family relationship between Brewer and the McQueens, the allegations against the firm’s billing in two cases in which he was counsel (NYAG and Oliver North), and failure to disclose that Brewer himself was precluded from participating in any of the AckMac cases by the US District Court for Northern District of Texas. The Trustee said it shouldn’t be their responsibility to “ferret out” complete disclosures. This failure to make disclosures were grounds enough to prevent Brewer and his firm from serving as special counsel.

They detail what they call “adverse interests” against the estate. In other words, work that Brewer is doing that is not in the interest of the creditors nor in the real interests of the NRA as an organization. This is really the meat of their objection:

These adverse interests include:
a. potential claims by the Debtors’ estates against BAC for fraudulent conveyance based on allegations of billing improprieties raised by a former NRA president, a First VP, four members of the NRA’s Board of Directors, and the NYAG Action;
b. conflicted loyalties BAC may have between its own interests and those of the NRA in the NYAG Action, as well as in an action the NRA brought against its former president, Oliver North, in which Mr. North alleges he suffered retaliation from the NRA leadership when he raised concerns over BAC’s legal fees (the “Oliver North Action”);
c. conflicted loyalties BAC may have in the NYAG Action and generally between the interests of the NRA and those of Mr. LaPierre, based on BAC’s prior representations of Mr. LaPierre, and the steps Mr. LaPierre is alleged to have taken to stonewall internal inquiries regarding BAC’s fees; and
d. conflicted loyalties BAC may have because Ackerman McQueen is adverse to the Debtors in at least three lawsuits for which BAC is sought to be retained to represent the Debtors, when BAC’s named partner is married to the sister of Ackerman McQueen’s CEO.

The Board of Directors need to bear in mind that the US Trustee, despite wild accusations by Brewer and others with sweetheart deals, is independent and does not have an axe to grind. The US Trustee is neither anti-NRA nor pro-NRA but rather is pro-process and keeping it equitable for all involved.

So when doing their fiduciary duties of care, loyalty, and obedience, the Board of Directors should be asking themselves these questions.

Have I done my duty of care if all I’ve done is accept the assertions of Wayne LaPierre, William Brewer, and the Special Litigation Committee?

Am I performing my duty of loyalty to the members, the donors, the Second Amendment, and to the core values of the NRA?

Have I as a board member really overseen the actions of the CEO in the name of the organization or did I just go along?

Did I confuse my duty of obedience to the NRA with obedience and loyalty to certain individuals?

Will I be protected by the “business judgment rule” if I merely accepted the word of LaPierre and Brewer without going any further?

Finally, am I liable for a breach of fiduciary duties and what happens if I am?

Judge Says Time To Act Like Adults

US District Court Judge Joe Fish has ordered mandatory mediation in the case between the NRA and AckMac that is pending in US District Court for the Northern District of Texas. He has told all parties that they have 30 days to set a mediation date or the mediator will do it for them.

The named parties shall be present during the entire mediation process and each party which is not a natural person must be represented by an executive officer (other than in-house counsel) with authority to negotiate a settlement (the authority required shall be active, i.e., not merely the authority to observe the mediation proceedings but the authority to negotiate, demand or offer, and bind the party represented). Counsel and the parties shall proceed in a good faith effort to try to resolve this case

As I read that, it means the both Wayne LaPierre and Revan McQueen must be present for the entire proceedings.

To make sure they play nice, Judge Fish has said he will order sanctions if the parties involved don’t “comply in good faith.”

The Lawsuit That Keeps On Giving

The lawsuit and counter-lawsuit between the NRA and Ackerman McQueen is the lawsuit that keeps on giving. Reading the amended complaint filed yesterday by Ackerman McQueen is like reading about one of those Hollywood celebrity divorce cases but only better.

I give you the first three sections of AckMac’s “SECOND AMENDED THIRD-PARTY COMPLAINT AGAINST WAYNE LAPIERRE & THE NRA FOUNDATION, INC.” The Complementary Spouse said to me when I started snorting that it must have been funny.

This Third-Party Complaint arises from a series of ethically questionable
undertakings by the NRA through its longtime leader Executive Vice President and CEO, Wayne LaPierre (“LaPierre”). As a result of his authoritarian management style, love of money and power, and deep personal paranoia, today, LaPierre has reduced the NRA to a cult of personality as he continues to waste membership funds on media stunts and serial litigation with only one purpose: to save his own skin.

Through the intricate financial arrangements he constructed over decades with very little oversight from the NRA Board of Directors or other executives, LaPierre was able to obtain millions of dollars in personal benefits by keeping vendors and the NRA’s own accounting
department in the dark about his personal spending. As the gathering storm clouds of a possible investigation by the New York Attorney General (“NYAG”) started to form in 2018, LaPierre became concerned the details of his financial adventurism may come to light.

LaPierre sought assistance from lawyer/media-darling, William A. Brewer III (“Brewer”), and his law firm/public-relations firm, Brewer Attorneys & Counselors (the “Brewer Firm”), who together with LaPierre’s Chief of Staff, Joshua Powell (“Powell”), formulated a plan
to pin all liability on a convenient scapegoat, deflect media attention from LaPierre’s malfeasance and failed NRA programs, and maintain LaPierre’s domination of the NRA. Many of the resulting actions were made possible by LaPierre’s paranoia and guilty conscience, as he repeatedly proclaimed that Brewer was the only one who “could keep him out of jail.” By fantastic coincidence, Brewer determined that it was AMc—a company owned by his own father-in-law— who could be blamed for all of the NRA’s malfeasance and financial woes. In return for deflecting the spotlight from LaPierre, Brewer was given free rein to reap a financial windfall in exorbitant attorney fees, displace his father-in-law’s company as the public-relations firm for the NRA, and set up AMc as the perfect “fall guy.

It was the “lawyer/media-darling” characterization of William Brewer III that had me in stitches.

While all of this is somewhat humorous to read, the sad thing is that from everything I’ve heard that Wayne LaPierre is paranoid and let Brewer be his “Rasputin” in an effort to save his own skin.

The ones to suffer from all of this will not be Wayne, Bill Brewer, or AckMac. It will be the ordinary NRA members who gave their hard-earned monies to the organization in order to protect their God-given right to self-defense as enshrined in the Second Amendment. Just when it is needed most, the NRA’s attention is on its series of lawsuits against AckMac and its bankruptcy stunt.

You can read the whole complaint here.

“She Works Hard For The Money”

The latest filings in the NRA’s bankruptcy case contain a treasure trove of information. This is especially true for the NRA’s statement of financial affairs. It goes well beyond a mere balance sheet and includes a complete list of payments and distributions to insiders. Insiders would be the officers of the NRA as well as all members of the Board of Directors.

Reading through the list, most of the payments are recruiter payments. While I might quibble on whether or not directors or their organizations should be compensated for bringing in new members, it is a relatively minor thing and the amount of money was not material (using an accounting term).

Bearing in mind that 2020 was a horrible year, financially and otherwise, for many people, there is one person who did rather well in 2020.

Marion Hammer.

Ms. Hammer received $246,500 in direct payments for “consulting services”. In addition, she received another $183,600 in indirect payments made to United Sportsmen of Florida for a “consulting agreement.” (See pages 53 and 54 of the NRA’s filing.)

As Donna Summer sang, “She works hard for the money.
So you better treat her right.”

Being Wayne LaPierre’s No. 1 defender and attack cat (she is a cat person) is hard work. He must have thought so which is why she got $430,100 of member’s money in an effort to treat her right.