Disbarred Fen-Phen Lawyers Convicted, Ordered to Return Money

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Frankfort, KY—Two attorneys who cheated their clients out of millions in a pharmaceutical settlement now face decades in prison, and must return some funds, said a jury.

On Tuesday, jurors in a U.S. District Court decided that the attorney’s Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion, are responsible for returning $30 million of the total $200 million they stole from clients while prosecuting the Fen-Phen diet-drug litigation that was settled in 2001.

Fen-Phen, as the combination of fenfluramine and phentermine, was an anti-obesity drug marketed by American Home Products (now known as Wyeth). It was withdrawn from the market after complaints of heart-valve disease surfaced, primarily among women taking the drug. Over 50,000 victims then brought lawsuits against the company for product liability.

Cunningham and Gallion were tried and convicted on several counts of wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, after bilking over 400 former clients out of settlement money. The judgment was made on April 3rd. A third attorney, Melbourne Mills, Jr., was acquitted.

Prosecutors say that the two took over $120 million from their clients in payment, instead of the mere $60 million that they were owed.

Jurors deliberated for several hours before setting the amount to be returned at $30 million, say court officials.

The attorneys are scheduled to be sentenced in July. Since each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment, the men could face life in prison if U.S. District Court Judge Danny Reeves decides to run their sentences consecutively.

Attorneys for the defense claimed that Cunningham and Gallion relied on the judge who presided over the original class action suit against American Home Products, Boone Circuit Judge James Bamberger, to set the legal fees that they received.

Cunningham and Gallion were disbarred after the fraud scandal erupted. They have also been ordered to pay $42 million in restitution after a civil award was granted to their former clients.

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform in Washington has hailed the decision as a just one, which will “send a message to some of the plaintiffs’ bar that justice is about putting their clients’ interest first, not about advancing their own self-interest,” said the institute’s president, Lisa Rickard.

 

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