MIAMI — The attorneys at Carlton Fields Jorden Burt find themselves being sued by FT Consultants, the liquidators for Rural International Bank, a failed bank in the Bahamas.
Rural International is active in the Bahamas with an office in Sandyport. When the bank failed, Maria Ferrere and Alison Treco of FT Consultants were appointed to liquidate the company by the Florida Supreme Court.
Rural International Bank Limited v. Carlton Fields Jorden Burt PA et al., filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida last May, alleges that Carlton Fields Jorden Burt and attorney Robert B. Macaulay committed “legal malpractice” when they were representing the bank.
FT Consultants alleges that Carlton Fields Jorden Burt billed Rural International Bank fees in excess of $1 million for work that was actually done for others. The company also claims that Carlton Fields Jorden Burt had advised Key Financial Investment Group, which subsequently borrowed $13 million from Rural International Bank — money that the firm has yet to repay.
As a result, FT Consultants has filed a separate suit against Key Financial Investment Group and the company that has since purchased it, Geofinance Ltd.
“Liquidators will pursue wherever they can to try and get funds back into the entity they are liquidating,” Robert J. Angerer Jr., an attorney at Igler-Pearlman, P.A., told the Florida Record.
In liquidation cases, according to Angerer, it is a standard practice for the liquidator to review all of the expenses involved and assess which ones may be able to be recuperated.
The case is complicated by what FT Consultants alleges is Carlton Fields Jorden Burt's conflict of interest in its representation of Rural International while also providing advice and representation to Geofinance.
In December 2015, Macaulay drafted and sent a letter to Rural International Bank’s legal counsel in the United States. In the letter, he outlines why he thinks the liquidators are making the wrong decision in attempting to reclaim money from his firm. This letter has become one of the arguments that FT Consultants has used against Macaulay because he copied the counsel for Geofinance on it.
For its part, Carlton Fields Jorden Burt has requested that the case be dropped citing its belief that no harm had been done to Rural International as well as a failure to show that any work the law firm produced was below standard.
“In what I could see, they (Rural International Bank) paid so much to the law firm, and there are questions as to what those funds were for, so they must feel like there is a case to get some of that money back,” Angerer said.
“It’s their fiduciary responsibility,” he said.
Rural International Bank is owned by the Brazilian banking group Banco Rural. It was placed into liquidation in 2013 amid a political scandal.
David P. Ackerman, Scott J. Link and E. Raul Novoa Jr. of Ackerman Link and Sartory P.A. are representing Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, according to www.law360.com.