Although banks that fail to adhere to BSA and anti-money laundering regulations and are fined for their failures seem to show up in press reports frequently, occasionally you'll find a story about a bank that is not only watching out for suspicious activity, it's taking action when it discovers it to nail the suspect. One such do-gooder is City National Bank of Florida, which was the first person or entity to file a complaint with the Florida state bar about an attorney who had been using his attorney's trust account at the bank "to pay expenses such as secretarial services, office cleaning, electric service, health insurance payments and mortgage payments." For those not familiar with the purpose of such a trust account, it's to hold funds of the client. An attorney is not permitted to pay personal living expenses out of the trust account. That's a "breach of trust" and an unethical practice. Four days after two investors sued the attorney (who was apparently engaged in a type of Ponzi scheme), the bank filed its complaint. Acting on that complaint, the Florida Supreme Court recently disbarred the attorney. Like Mr. Pines in yesterday's post, he'll have to find another line of work where ethics are of little concern. Maybe he can rate subprime CDOs on Wall Street. There are few more cases of punishment handed out by the Florida Supreme Court to other lawyers who've run afoul of the applicable ethical rules. While self-policing is essential to foster public trust in the profession (what little is left), it's discouraging to see so many members (now ex or suspended members) of this "honorable" profession give lawyer bashers such powerful ammunition. In this case, the community bankers were on the ball and the lawyers were behind the eight ball.
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