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NRA leadership and bankruptcy attacked by US trustee

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National Rifle Associations hope to end court challenge in New York received a blow on Monday when a Justice Department official berated his leadership and called for his bankruptcy filing to be dismissed or for the appointment to be dismissed. an outside controller to oversee its finances. .

Lisa L. Lambert, a lawyer in the United States Office of the Trustees, which is part of the Department of Justice, said the evidentiary record clearly and convincingly established that Wayne LaPierre, the longtime chief executive of the NRA , had failed to provide appropriate oversight. For a number of years, she added, it went unchallenged that Wayne LaPierres’ personal expenses resembled business expenses.

Mr LaPierre and the NRA had filed for bankruptcy not because of financial difficulties, but as a strategy to avoid litigation in New York, where Attorney General Letitia James is seeking to shut down the organization and recover millions of dollars in allegedly lacked funds from Mr. LaPierre and three other current and former executives.

The NRA was licensed in New York a century and a half ago, but it has filed for bankruptcy in federal court in Dallas and is looking to move its charter to Texas, where politicians are far more sympathetic to the organization. . But the position of the U.S. office of trustees, which weighed in closing arguments on the final day of the trial, will likely weigh on presiding judge Harlin D. Hale, who has said he will decide by early next week . The United States Trustee Program oversees the integrity of nations bankruptcy courts.

NRA attorney Gregory Garman appeared somewhat troubled by US trustees intervening on the final day of the trial. While he says I have enormous respect for the office, he also suggested that politics might be at stake, even if criticism of the RNA leadership grows to the right, and includes former RNA chairman Oliver L. North.

I am disappointed to hear for the first time in closing arguments that the US trustee has now taken a position I expected to respond to in real time, but it is, Mr. Garman. Your honor, we have natural enemies. This Department of Justice may not agree with the National Rifle Association, but too bad, we did the right thing.

Bankruptcy experts said the US trustees’ decision was rare.

The NRA is really in trouble, said Adam J. Levitin, a professor specializing in bankruptcy at Georgetown University. The American trustee is rarely involved in this type of petition, much less calls for dismissal, a trustee or an examiner. I don’t see a result where the NRA comes out unscathed. I think the real question is what recourse the judge grants.

John Pottow, who teaches bankruptcy at the University of Michigan Law School, called the trustee’s intervention a blatant signal of the NRA’s deep dysfunction, adding that such trustee intervention does not happen very often. .

The lawsuit highlighted concerns about the surveillance of Mr. LaPierres. Mr. LaPierre testified that he bankrupted the NRA without even speaking to his senior lieutenants or most of its board members. He testified that he was unaware his former CFO was given a consulting contract for $ 360,000 a year after going under a cloud, or that his personal travel agent, hired by the NRA, was charging a booking fee. 10% off charter flights plus a down payment of up to $ 26,000 per month.

Mr Garman said in his final conclusions that the organization’s wrongdoing, while worthy of the cringe, was relatively minor and did not reach the appointing level of outside oversight, such as a trustee.

I have had experience when there are foreign bank accounts, I have had experience when there is a lack of money to appoint a trustee, he said, adding that it is no was not the case here. The National Rifle Association righted their ship.

Ms Lambert, the deputy US trustee in Dallas, disagreed, exposing episodes of alleged corruption by Mr LaPierre and other NRA officials, a number of which were not contested during the trial . She cited spending by the NRA or its contractors on bespoke Zegna suits for Mr. LaPierre, meals at a posh Tuscan restaurant in Northern Virginia, and charter flights for him and his family, as well as a plan that was devised to buy a million dollars. house for the use of Mr. LaPierre and his wife which was eventually abandoned.

Regarding charter flights, she said: LaPierre says it’s for safety, but evidence indicates he came to pick up his family. The evidence indicates that the additional stops were not to be noted in the reservation records. And the testimony is not refuted that no NRA policy allows charter flights.

Mr LaPierres’ close assistant Millie Hallow even embezzled $ 40,000 for her son’s wedding, Ms Lambert noted, but beyond repaying that amount after being arrested, she suffered no consequences. additional.

Mr Garman said throughout the trial that there was a dividing line in 2018, when the NRA undertook a self-audit and corrective action. But Ms Lambert said evidence presented in the 12-day trial showed that even after the self-described course correction, the irregularities had not been corrected, noting that, among others, Craig Spray, the former CFO, had refused to sign the NRA tax reports for 2019.

The NRA said it was seeking refuge from the actions of New York attorneys general and wanted to change its state of incorporation, she added. This can be done outside of bankruptcy. It is not a legitimate reason to declare bankruptcy.

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