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The FTC Prosecution, The Mystery Money Man and the Continuing Tale of Pierce Bainbridge

Prop 213 limits damages.
Prop 213 limits damages.

Dan Garner* Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP hit the scene in the Summer of 2018 as the self-proclaimed “Fastest Growing Law Firm in the History of the World.” That growth has come to a sharp halt with the timing aligning with the launching of competing lawsuits involving the firm, its former partner Don Lewis, as well as Pierce Bainbridge legal representatives Putney Twombly and Littler Mendelson. 

LawFuel has uncovered new information related to Co-Managing Partner James D. Bainbridge, and his long-time friend Daniel A. Fingarette (aka William “Bill” Burke). The revelations darken the clouds already hovering over the firm.  

Among the key issues surrounding the firm:     

  • $9.1 million default declared by Pierce Bainbridge litigation financier Pravati Capital LLC; 
  • reports that managing partner John Mark Pierce allegedly siphoned hundreds of thousands of dollars in firm funds while claiming “not to take any salary;”
  • alleged failure of the firm to file taxes in its first at least 18 months of operations; 
  • written messages from Pierce’s own personnel raising important issues over financial and personal dealings.

Firm clients Rudy Giuliani, Michael Avenatti, George Papadopoulos, Tulsi Gabbard and Don Lemon have upped the scrutiny of the high profile firm.  As has outside counsel representation by long time Giuliani ally Mark Mukasey, and his firm Mukasey, Frenchman and Sklaroff LLP. recently penned a profile on Mukasey (pictured) entitled: “Meet the lawyer at the center of the Trump universe.”

Just last week, NBC news looked into Pierce Bainbridge’s issues. 

The NBR article covers the departures of Eric Creizman and Melissa Madrigal — who were publicly tabbed less than three months to lead the firm’s Giuliani representation — for Armstrong Teasedale. 

Apparently paving the way for the partner duo, Pierce Bainbridge has seen at least 17 attorneys quit the firm in the last several months. In addition to NBC, a recent article in Leaders League remarked: 

“Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht, which began life as a promising if aggressive litigation boutique funded by Pravati Capital, has been in very public meltdown for over half a year. Its aim – to be disruptive in its approach to professional lawyering and ultimately overtake the likes of Quinn Emanuel by 2025 – is nowhere near being met, with the firm embroiled in lawsuits while hemorrhaging partners.”

The roster of recent partners hitting the exits is telling and reported by us recently.

The Pierce Bainbridge Cast of Departed Partners

Eric Creizman (Armstrong Teasdale)Melissa Madrigal (Armstrong Teasdale)
Deborah Renner  (Renner Law PLLC)Michael Winograd (Brown Rudnick LLP)
Robert Allen  (Glaser Weil, LLP)Joan Meyer (Thompson Hine)
Jeff Alexander (Wachtell Missry LLP)Susan Winkler (Winkler Law LLC)
Jeffrey Newton (Kobre Kim)

However the news on Bainbridge and Fingarette raises serious questions about the firm.

The Fingarette Factor

Fingarette appears to be a silent player in the business of Pierce Bainbridge.

According to Lewis, Pierce advised: “Jim’s best friend Dan Fingarette is really helpful on this [financial] stuff.” In addition, Pierce’s assistant advised Fingarette is “the guy who writes us huge checks when we need to make payroll.”

In 1996, the Bainbridge and Fingarette (aka Burke) were accused by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) of engaging in a $80 million scheme on the consuming public. 

A settlement was reached, which “barred Bainbridge and Fingarette from engaging in similar deceptive schemes in the future, subject to district court approval.”

See the FTC report extract below –

Fingarette was subsequently sued in federal court in Nevada in 2012.  The lawsuit claims Fingarette (aka Burke) falsely held himself out to be an attorney, and asserts claims for fraud, deceptive business practices and more. 

The money allegations include:

  • “[Plaintiff] was impressed by Fingarette’s background.  Fingarette claimed to have graduated from the University of California, Berkeley . . . and also claimed to have attended Harvard Law School.  Unbeknownst to [Plaintiff], however, Mr. Fingarette never graduated from law school and was never licensed to practice law
  • “Fingarette said that he was a “Harvard Law School moot-court champion.”

These allegations raise red flags because Bainbridge’s firm bio – which highlights academic achievements from over 40 years ago — states he is “a graduate of Harvard Law School” and “prizewinner in Harvard Law School’s. . . Moot Court Competition;” it also mentions achievements at “the University of California, Berkeley.”

(Screenshot of the first two paragraphs of the firm bio of Jim Bainbridge)

To recap:  Bainbridge and Fingarette were accused by the Federal Trade Commission of engaging in an $80 million scheme. Fingarette — who according to the FTC has an alias — is subsequently sued for deception and fraud. 

The deception is premised largely upon his allegedly false credentials, which are nonetheless almost identical to those on Bainbridge’s firm biography. And Fingaratte is apparently involved in Pierce Bainbridge finances in some form or other, which remains entirely unclear. 

Lewis claims that Pierce Bainbridge is a “product of smoke and mirrors” while the firm has made serious allegations against Lewis, which he firmly denies.

Firm partners Christopher N. LaVigne (pictured) and Denver G. Edwards – accused of lying under oath to cover-up financial misconduct – have, according to Lewis, both suggested Pierce may be involved in criminal financial misconduct. 

The new Bainbridge and Fingarette revelations simply add another twist in the tale of a firm that continues to attract big name clients and yet develop its own intrigue and questions over its operations.


*Dan Garner is a freelance legal and business affairs writer.

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