The co-founder of a Denver law firm says he has been forced out of the firm he still co-owns by thieving partners who refuse to pay him his share of its profits.
Attorney David Nagel started what was then Feldmann & Nagel in 2004. With the addition of the energy lawyer Ralph Cantafio it became Feldmann Nagel and Cantafio in 2018.
The 2020 retirement of Charles Feldmann and addition of white-collar defense lawyer Michael Song should have made it Nagel Cantafio & Song. Instead it is Cantafio & Song today.
Nagel’s explanation for why has been spelled out in a Denver District Court lawsuit.
Nagel says he initially supported the hiring of Song as managing partner in 2020 but soon found out that Song was paying himself more than he was supposed to, firing longtime employees and replacing them with personal friends to hide his theft.
“The firm, through Song, paid Song a salary while Song was also receiving monthly distributions of firm profits as a member,” the lawsuit states. “Nagel has demanded that Song return the funds paid to him as salary, but he has refused to do so.”
In fall 2021, Song decreased the amount of money Nagel was receiving from the firm’s profits. By the end of that year, Nagel expressed interest in leaving the firm the way Feldmann had — with the other partners buying his share of the company. That hasn’t happened.
Nagel says that he hasn’t been paid by the firm he co-owns since November 2021 and hasn’t been allowed to see the firm’s books or take part in its decision making.
“Nagel has been shut out from the firm and cut off from resources, payments and information to which (he) is entitled,” according to his lawsuit, which was filed Monday.
Without access to the firm’s books, Nagel says he can’t determine how much money he is owed by his former law partners and law firm. But he accuses Song and Cantafio of civil theft which, if proven, could result in punitive damages of three times the amount he is owed.
Nagel’s attorneys are Joseph Daniels and Christian Hendrickson with Sherman & Howard.
“The parties are engaging in a confidential mediation next week to explore the amicable resolution of these matters,” Hendrickson said in an email Wednesday.
“As we would rather focus efforts toward that cause, we don’t have any comments at this time, and would rather this not be given further public attention while the parties attempt to conclude the matter without the need for further judicial intervention,” he said.
Song wrote in an email Wednesday, “We do not comment on matters of former personnel, and we value the contributions of each of our team members.”
Cantafio & Song has 13 attorneys — not including Nagel — and handles a wide variety of criminal defense, civil, business and family law cases, according to its website.