Legal journalism can shock us because it exposes the truth about the law and its participants. Reporters must ask au courant and weighty questions of legal newsmakers otherwise the public will never find authenticity in the law.
I was privileged to have multiple exchanges with litigation attorney James Kridel, who has unique experience in tax and bankruptcy. In part 2 of my “Coffee With A Counselor” series, Mr. Kridel, who is at the center of a lawsuit filed by Teresa Giudice, responds to 5 key claims set forth in Plaintiff’s Verified Complaint. Mr. Kridel, a former Counterintelligence Agent and attorney with 40 years of legal experience, provides his brief responses below in blue font.
Allegation #1: Defendant Kridel never met with Plaintiff prior to Defendant Kridel’s filing of the Bankruptcy Case.
“This is simply not true. Although this occurred back in 2009, our billing records and case management records (two separate software applications) reflect that there were numerous in-person meetings with Teresa prior to the filing of the Petition. Two other attorneys had referred Teresa to me before I met with her. Our office records reflect that Teresa not only met with me, but that she met with other attorneys from this office, including an attorney who had over 25 years experience and was certified by the Supreme Court as a Civil and Criminal Trial Attorney as well as at least one Paralegal. These meetings all took place in our Clifton, New Jersey office.”
“Despite the time-lapse, I have a personal recollection of numerous meetings because of the fact that she would visit the office with her children and others in the building from different offices, who recognized her from television, such that almost everyone from our office questioned whether or not she was, in fact, the celebrity from the Real Housewives of New Jersey.”
“Although specifically requested to bring tax returns with her, she initially did not do so. Because of a pending Judgment being entered in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Bergen Vicinage, Teresa specifically stressed the urgency with which the Petition needed to be filed. It was apparent that she had spoken to other attorneys prior to this, and was more familiar with basic concepts of bankruptcy than most laypersons. This became obvious immediately.”
Allegation #2: Defendant Kridel, by signing the subject bankruptcy petition, falsely certified that he had “performed a reasonable investigation into the circumstances that gave rise to the petition.”
“Although the absence of tax returns made the investigation more difficult, we made every possible effort to complete the Petition. It was always my belief that absent tax returns and a credit report, amendments would be absolutely necessary as the investigation progressed. We were confident that when Teresa produced the promised tax returns, amendments would be required. Based upon the time constraints and the fact that Teresa failed to produce requested documents timely, we were forced to rely on Teresa’s statements which we emphasized the importance thereof. Teresa set forth on the Petition her income and assured us that this was accurate as she, in her own words, indicated that she was well aware of her income.”
“Shortly after filing, many fires began to appear and Teresa’s excuses for not producing income tax returns started to raise red flags. Lawyers must necessarily rely on the statements of their clients until they are advised otherwise. It was clear from the Petition that her income was far less than her expenses and Teresa specified that the deficiencies were being made up by family. Going forward, she anticipated her success on Bravo would more than compensate for her then low-income figures. In determining initial income, the Bankruptcy Code and Rules provide for a six-month look back period.”
Allegation #3: Defendant Kridel failed to perform a reasonable investigation concerning the Plaintiff’s Petition, Schedules, and Statement of Financial Affairs.
“The answer to the second allegation above applies equally to the third allegation, however, I directly examined the personal belongings of Teresa by visiting her home in Towaco, New Jersey, as well as spent much of a second day at her home with the Chapter 7 Trustee and an appraiser during which furniture was examined, jewelry was surveyed, the so-called Internet business was looked into, and the real estate was scrutinized. This is extremely unusual as it is not the practice for attorneys to visit a Debtor’s home and it shows the diligence expended so as to properly handle her Bankruptcy.”
“During the physical inspection of her home with the Trustee and the appraiser, Teresa told us that much of the furniture was bought post-Petition with post-Petition earnings. The late Honorable Morris Stern required this office to supply him with receipts for the post-Petition purchases. We specifically did this with Teresa and during a telephonic conference the Judge praised our diligence and accuracy; however, he was outraged at the fact that the receipts reflected cash expenditures of approximately $60,000.00.”
“Teresa never advised anyone from this office of any rental income. Teresa’s 2009 (the year she filed for bankruptcy) income tax return does not reflect any rental income attributable to her. Teresa testified before the Chapter 7 Trustee in a recoiled proceeding that the Petition, Schedules, and Statement of Affairs was true and accurate and that she signed the Petition, Schedules, and Statement of Affairs after fully reviewing same as true and accurate. She later testified at an Examination by the U.S. Trustee’s Office and again authenticated the Petition under oath. She also testified at an adversarial proceeding under oath before the late Honorable Morris Stern to the same effect.”
“Teresa was prepped before all hearings in this office. Teresa well knew that it was her responsibility to review the Petition for accuracy. Sometime later when this office learned that Teresa had not filed tax returns for approximately 10 years, we had her execute a document reflecting that we were relying on her representations and that if they proved to be false, she would be subject to civil and criminal penalties. The crimes that Teresa was charged with coincidentally became known during her bankruptcy; however, they occurred years before we even knew of the existence of Teresa. We were not her attorneys with respect to obtaining loans or advising her not to file income tax returns.”
Allegation #4: As a result of Defendant Kridel’s breach of fiduciary duty, Plaintiff has suffered compensatory damages in the amount of at least five million dollars.
“I respectfully suggest that Teresa suffered no damages as a consequence of anything this office did. In fact, she voluntarily withdrew her Bankruptcy Petition as set forth in the Consent Order. The criminal conduct of Teresa, as conceded in her testimony at sentencing before the Honorable Esther Salas, was solely that of her own making and she took full responsibility of same. We cannot be expected to know of prior criminal acts and therefore these were not set forth in her Petition. Any damage she suffered was the result of her own doing and not that of any conduct or omission by this office. It would appear from her testimony that her failure to file income taxes and the falsification of mortgage applications, years prior to our representation, was the lynchpin that brought her before the Courts.”
Allegation #5: Defendant Kridel, during representation of Plaintiff, failed to exercise that degree of care commonly exercised by an ordinary member of the legal profession.
“As aforesaid, we went well beyond the ordinary investigative work done by Bankruptcy Attorneys in preparing schedules and amendments thereto. We attended numerous depositions, including one at the U.S. Trustee’s Office, of Heather Maclean, Teresa’s co-author, in which Ms. Maclean testified that she and Teresa discussed the opening of several LLCs for the sole purpose of maintaining bank accounts and that her first book deal did not become a reality until post-Petition and that the work done thereon was additionally post-Petition. Teresa never advised us of any of these discussions or properties, and spending a day at the U.S. Trustee’s office certainly was not the lazy thing to do, but again, we attempted to do our job and to the extent we could, protect our client. We stopped filing amendments when it became apparent that the Bankruptcy would not conclude in a Discharge.”
Grab your gavel, join the conversation, and let us know what you think about Teresa Giudice’s claims after you’ve read James Kridel’s response to the headiest accusations.
Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.