SACRAMENTO – One of California’s best-known celebrity lawyers, Armenian-American Mark Geragos, is being investigated by the State Bar of California. He is being investigated, along with Los Angeles attorney Brian Kabateck, “over how money was spent from a multimillion-dollar insurance settlement related to the Armenian Genocide,” the Associated Press reported.
“Geragos and Los Angeles attorney Brian Kabateck denied any wrongdoing and said they have cooperated in previous investigations by the bar.
Geragos’ clients have included Michael Jackson, Colin Kaepernick, Winona Ryder, Chris Brown and headline-grabbing defendants including Jussie Smollett and convicted killer Scott Peterson,” according to AP.
Geragos and Kabateck “are caught up in an ongoing investigation of other LA lawyers including Tom Girardi stemming from a $17.5-million settlement with an insurance company based in France. The money was intended for descendants of the genocide in 1915-16 by the Turkish Ottoman Empire during World War I as well as for Armenian charities,” AP noted.
Ruben Duran, the state bar’s board chairman, said in a statement that, “the State Bar is charged with protecting the public.”
The AP article explained that, “Duran did not disclose details of the investigation, which will determine if a notice of disciplinary charges should be filed. Any such charges would then have to be proven in a hearing before the State Bar Court and could result in the attorneys being suspended or disbarred.”
A Los Angeles Times report in March, 2022 also examined how the settlement money was disbursed. There are allegations that some of it went to ‘pet charities’ of the two attorneys, including their alma mater, Loyola Law School.
Kabateck in a statement said, “the reference ‘to a world-class university’ that established a highly-regarded center to study genocides (like the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the Cambodian Genocide, and other crimes against humanity) as a ‘pet’ charity is offensive and insensitive.”
Loyola Law School officials did not immediately comment, AP noted.
“The undisputed facts are and will always be that an independent third-party appointed, approved, and overseen by the Court,” Kabateck said, adding neither he nor Geragos “were involved in any decision relating to individual payments to victims, nor were they able to decide, review, or influence claims made by class members.”
Geragos in a telephone interview said he is “more irate than anything. Talk about no good deed goes unpunished.”
According to AP, “Geragos said he and Kabateck filed a lawsuit when they discovered the problem, brought in an outside accounting firm, wrote a letter to the California attorney general exposing the problem, cooperated with a local prosecutor, and survived three prior investigations by the state bar.”
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this article)