Burton Wiand has a new law firm on his business card. But his focus remains laser-like in trying to recover millions of dollars victims lost in one of the Gulf Coast's biggest-ever alleged Ponzi schemes.
After 20 years of working for one of the most prominent law firms on the Gulf Coast, securities law attorney Burton Wiand recently decided to open his own practice.
Wiand had been working for Fowler White Boggs for 20 years, joining the firm after spending 13 years as an attorney in the Securities and Exchange
Commission's enforcement division. Wiand didn't leave the firm empty-handed: At least 10 other attorneys in Fowler White's business law team joined Wiand in leaving to work for the new firm, Wiand Guerra King.
Moreover, all of Wiand's clients agreed to follow him and his partners to the new firm, choosing the attorney over the practice. And then there's what could be considered Wiand's most high-profile assignment: Serving as the court-appointed receiver in the case of Arthur Nadel, the Sarasota money manager facing federal criminal charges for allegedly bilking investors out of $400 million in a Ponzi scheme.
Wiand and his team will continue to track down Nadel's gains from the alleged swindle, to set up a pool of money that could be returned to victims. One way Wiand is doing that is through filing, or threatening to file, what's known as a clawback lawsuit. That's where people that made money off a crime, even if they knew nothing about it, could be ordered by a court to return their profits.
“The money that was distributed was all stolen money,” Wiand said in a previous Review story on his role in the Nadel case. “Nadel took it under false pretenses.”
Wiand told the federal judge hearing the Nadel case that forensic accountants and investigators have identified nearly $40 million in false profits spread across hundreds of investors nationwide. As of early November, Wiand had sent letters to 85 of those investors, threatening to file a clawback lawsuit unless they repaid the money.
Then, in the week prior to Thanksgiving, Wiand had recovered about $1.6 million from people who had made more money than what they invested in one of Nadel's funds. Wiand says he could be sending out as many as 100 more clawback letters early in 2010.
Wiand has taken other actions to get financial gains back in the Nadel case, in addition to sending clawback letters, such as attempting to liquidate some of Nadel's assets, including a jet center in Venice.
Meanwhile, the attorneys at Wiand Guerra King will continue with the firm's other cases. Wiand previously said the firm's focus will be similar to what the group zeroed in on at Fowler White: Complex litigation and regulatory matters in securities and financial services.
“We are a very close-knit group,” says Wiand. “Maybe one day we'll grow into a large firm, too.”
— Mark Gordon