A husband and wife fired from a Denver law firm say their bosses let them go to hoard the spoils of a nine-figure jury verdict and bankroll their own retirement plans.
In a complaint filed in Denver district court last week, lawyers Wendy and Eric Fisher allege they were fired from Reilly Pozner, a litigation and trial practice firm, without legal cause months after the firm scored a $390 million jury verdict.
The Fishers say the company’s named partners, which are the firm’s only equity shareholders, fired them to cut non-equity partners out of the windfall from that verdict. They also allege Dan Reilly and Larry Pozner have been keeping more than their share of company profits from as far back as 2002.
About two-thirds of the attorneys that were listed on Reilly Pozner’s website in spring 2015 are no longer there today.
The lawsuit, filed March 7, names Reilly Pozner LLP as well as both Reilly and Pozner individually as defendants.
It claims that Reilly and Pozner repeatedly told the Fishers – who were among the attorneys that founded the firm in 2000 – that they would receive “life-changing” payments from contingency fees after the firm won multimillion-dollar mass tort cases.
But instead, the complaint says, Reilly and Pozner denied the Fishers their expected shares of the profits and cut them loose without warning in June 2015, months after the firm earned the $390 million verdict and unknown settlement payments.
Reilly and Pozner told the Fishers the firm didn’t have enough money to pay its partners, the complaint alleges, but paid off the firm’s line of credit and bought themselves oceanfront properties in Jamaica and Hawaii, respectively.
“Reilly and Pozner seek to keep nearly 100% of RP’s share of the multi-million dollar pre-trial settlements and $390.5 million verdict, wind down RP, and take the vast majority of additional mass tort recoveries to pay for their lavish lifestyle and impending retirements,” the lawsuit says.
Christina Habas of Keating Wagner Polidori Free PC is representing Reilly Pozner. Reached by phone on Friday, she said she soon would file paperwork asking the court to turn the case over to arbitration.
“These are just allegations, and as evidence comes to light, we believe it will tell a far different story,” Habas said. “The biggest comment that I have is that these people worked together for a long time and we are saddened that, for whatever reason, litigation was filed.”
Reilly Pozner lists only three partners, including Reilly and Pozner, on its website. A snapshot of the same page from May 2015 shows 12 partners. The website also listed 28 employees then and just nine now.
According to court documents, the Fishers have been non-equity partners at Reilly Pozner for 12 years.
Early in their careers at Reilly Pozner, the Fishers’ case claims, the Fishers helped to resolve an ownership dispute and other cases for the Denver Broncos. They also allege that in 2011, the pair helped to settle Reilly Pozner’s first major mass tort case, which brought in $22.6 million for the firm.
That year, the Fishers received no year-end distribution, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says Reilly and Pozner hid financial information from the rest of the firm and refused to make either of the Fishers, or any other partner, an equity shareholder.
“Reilly and Pozner owed their partners, including the Fishers, full, fair, open and honest disclosure of all material information within their knowledge affecting the partnership relationship and partnership affairs,” the complaint reads.
Court documents do not disclose the Fishers’ salaries or the terms of their employment at Reilly Pozner.
M. Gabriel McFarland of the Golden-based law firm Evans & McFarland is representing the Fishers. He declined to comment on the case. The Fishers did not return several messages seeking comment.
Some Reilly Pozner alums have started their own law firms in metro Denver. That list includes RBF Law in the Denver Tech Center – which counts Eric Fisher as a named partner – and Eytan Nielsen in Cherry Creek.