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Taken in Ponzi scheme: noted college football coach sues lawyers

OK, there’s no close and immediate nexus between a California blog and the individual cited in today’s post headline, other than to note that the football coach referred to is Barry Alvarez.

That coach, who formerly headed the football program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is likely remembered well by many of our readers who are Southern California sports fans, given his team’s frequent Rose Bowl appearances in past years.

Alvarez has now moved on to other pursuits, being the athletic director at Wisconsin. He recently surfaced in a media story that underscores a few salient points about legal malpractice, which we believe are instructive and pass along to readers for their consideration.

Here’s what happened to Alvarez: Reportedly, he and family members were fleeced out of more than $1 million in a Ponzi scheme operating from Florida. The chief perpetrator in that unlawful operation was convicted of securities fraud and sentenced to a lengthy prison term.

Understandably, Alvarez was not happy over the lost money. And he was especially irate because of his view that his legal team — members of which both researched the scam artist prior to Alvarez’s investment and gave the coach the green light and subsequently represented him as an aggrieved investor trying to get his money back — acted negligently and in bad faith.

Alvarez recently sued those attorneys in a legal malpractice action, contending that they defrauded him, breached a contract he had executed with them and represented him in a patently negligent manner.

Among other things, Alvarez states that the law firm oversold its acumen in bankruptcy matters. Following his financial loss, Alvarez retained the firm to represent him as a creditor in the Ponzi architect’s bankruptcy proceeding. His court filing states that, because his legal team failed to inform him of an important creditors’ meeting and a deadline to file a claim, he was denied any opportunity to recoup lost money through the bankruptcy process.

His complaint further spotlights the firm’s continued legal billings, which accumulated despite the lawyers’ substandard representation and Alvarez’s lost opportunity to garner a remedy through bankruptcy.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages.