Public Practice - "You Didn’t Do What I Asked"

Prepared by W. Morley Lemon

The law firm of Griffin & Gunz hired Sheila Kenzie, a forensic accountant, to provide evidence in a dispute involving a wealthy family that controls companies domestically and internationally. The family is well known and very high profile. Basically, the argument is between one individual, Edward, and the other family members. Edward alleges that other family members have been charging personal expenses to the company causing it to lose value. He is adamant that the company’s share value has been affected significantly by the profligate actions of the other family members.

As a matter of routine, Sheila signed a confidentiality letter before undertaking the job, indicating that all the information available to her will be kept confidential under all circumstances.

Edward listed a number of examples where family members have put through personal expenditures in a memo to Griffin & Gunz. Sheila’s job is to gather evidence to support Edward’s allegations.

Sheila completed the work and incurred significant costs both in time and out of pocket. The work was extensive and the fee for services was fairly significant.

Sheila prepared a draft report and provided it to the lawyer. Basically, she found little support for the allegations made by Edward. As a matter of fact, it appeared from Sheila’s investigation that most of the wrong doing was by Edward rather than the other family members.

Edward and his lawyer were not very happy and asked for the report to be changed. They indicated quite clearly that they would not pay for Sheila’s services unless the report was changed. As Edward put it, "why should I pay you to provide damning evidence against me? I hired you to find damning evidence against the other members of my blankety blank family, not me."

What should Sheila do? Should she sue? (The confidentiality letter would seem to preclude suit being brought by the forensic accountant. Would the answer to this be changed if the confidentiality letter had not been signed?)

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