The case is captioned Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board v. Robert Allan Wright, Jr., 13-0780, December 6, 2013. The Iowa Supreme Court disciplined Wright for (a) failing to recognize a Nigerian scam and (b) allowing other clients to participate in the scam. This case has received a fair amount of press attention, but the press has ignored the main issue in the case from a lawyer discipline perspective.
The trouble began when Wright was contacted by a client, Floyd Madison who informed Wright that Madison was the beneficiary of a large bequest from a long-lost cousin in Nigeria. Madison told Wright that he needed to pay $177,660 in inheritance taxes and then he (Madison) would receive the money. Most lawyers would have told Madison that the transaction was a scam. Wright, however, drafted a contingency fee agreement under which Wright would receive 10% of the inheritance in exchange for representing Madison.
Wright then made more mistakes. He urged several of his clients to loan money to Madison to help Madison pay the “inheritance taxes.” At Wright’s urging, several of his other clients made loans to Madison. Wright placed the proceeds of the loans in his trust account. The opinion states “Wright stipulated that he failed to advise White, Stodden and Nunneman that they should seek independent counsel before making the loans to Madison.”