Tom Girardi’s Victims Suing California Bar For Allowing the Disgraced Attorney to Steal and Defraud Clients
Ana and Arturo Agaton have filed suit against the California State Bar after they were allegedly bilked by Tom Girardi, following their son’s death.
The couple claimed that cement plants near their home were responsible for the death of their son, and turned to the famed lawyer for help.
“We were so confident that he was representing us,” Ana said of the estranged husband of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star, Erika Jayne. “At the time, he was the king of the lawyers in Los Angeles.”
Tom Girardi had built a reputation and a law firm around fighting for people damaged by big businesses.
The famous attorney regularly flaunted his riches as the older husband of the RHOBH cast member, in recent years.
“We were sure that he was taking care of our … case,” Ana Agaton said. “But we never imagined that at the end, when they sent a letter from his office saying that the case was won and they were just waiting to distribute the checks to families in the proper manner — everything stopped there because from there we never heard from them again.”
The couple told ABC news in an interview that aired last week that they hadn’t seen a cent from the 2015 settlement with Riverside Cement Holdings Co. They didn’t know at the time that their situation was not unique.
Tom Girardi, 84, has been charged in two states for embezzling settlement cash owed to various clients. The Agatons have renewed their legal fight, not against the polluter, but against the California State Bar, the agency responsible for holding 200,000 California attorneys accountable for potential corruption.
“We want justice,” Ana Agaton said.
On Thursday, the duo filed a class action lawsuit against the agency, alleging “gross negligence” and “reckless misconduct.” They claimed that the California State Bar “failed to do its job” and “actively protected Tom Girardi and [his firm] Girardi & Keese from ethical complaints and discipline for decades.”
“Had the state Bar carried out its mission of protecting the public, this complaint, and many others like it, would not be necessary,” the lawsuit states. “But the state Bar did not put the public first. Instead, while Girardi was hard at work defrauding his clients and co-counsel, state Bar officials were gallivanting around the country in Girardi’s private jet, staying at luxury hotels in Las Vegas, enjoying fine dining at expensive private clubs, attending lavish holiday parties with Hollywood entertainers, or attending concerts and other events, all paid for by Girardi.”
The lawyer repping the Agatons, Daniel Osborn, told ABC News Nightline that Girardi wouldn’t have been able to rip off clients if the agency was not protecting the high profile attorney.
“Corruption,” said Osborn. “To me, that signifies corruption.”
“Had the state Bar been doing its policing of attorneys, including Tom Girardi, to the level that they were supposed to, this scheme would’ve never gotten off the ground,” Osborn said.
The State Bar has yet to be served with the suit, so the agency has not yet commented on the case.
However, the bar admitted, via a March statement, that its own failures enabled Girardi’s actions.
“The magnitude and duration of the transgressions reveal persistent institutional failure and a shocking past culture of unethical and unacceptable behavior,” the bar said after released reports detailed the actions of former staff and officials. “In recent years we have put in place many safeguards that serve both to prevent unethical or corrupt behavior and — if it does occur — to catch and address it quickly. That work continues.”
The lawsuit is largely built on the information described in the reports.
Girardi is facing federal criminal wire fraud charges in Los Angeles and Chicago. Prosecutors alleged that he pilfered millions owed to clients to support his lavish lifestyle. He pleaded not guilty and his attorneys are currently fighting to have a California judge rule Girardi not competent to stand trial, due to dementia. Girardi was forced into a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, back in November 2020.
“The mansions,” Ana Agaton said. “The mansions that he has, the life that his wife is living. Their lifestyle. Their lifestyle with money that don’t belong to them.”
The couple’s son, Arturo Jr., was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, which they claimed was the result of hexavalent chromium coming from the cement factories in their neighborhood. Arturo died three years after the first symptoms appeared, seventeen years ago. The Agatons were part of a class-action lawsuit filed by Girardi against Riverside Cement Holdings Co in 2015. The company settled for $31 million.
The new lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages and legal fees.