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Plaintiff's Attorney AVENATTI Convicted of Extortion

While an employer may state publicly or privately that the plaintiff's demands were "extortion," it is extremely rare for a plaintiff's attorney to be convicted of such an offense.  Well, this just happened to a plaintiff's attorney, a high-profile one at that, Michael Avenatti, who rose to national prominence as the attorney for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who had apparently settled a claim involving President Trump.  On February 14, 2020, a jury found that Avenatti tried to extort $20 million from Nike by threatening to expose damaging information about the company.  In the negotiation session with Nike's attorneys, the defense attorneys secretly tape recorded the negotiations in which Avenatti allegedly threatened to expose corruption by Nike in connection with high school basketball players if Nike did not pay Avenatti's client a significant amount of money and hire him to conduct an internal investigation at Nike.  Avenatti's defense was that he was just using tough negotiating tactics and wasn't trying to extort the company.  U.S. attorneys saw the situation differently, calling Avenatti's approach "an old-fashioned shakedown."  Avenatti apparently had threatened to expose the alleged payments to high school basketball players at a news conference.

 

There has also been a recent similar case in Georgia, in which the plaintiff's attorneys in an harassment case allegedly told the plaintiff to secretly video sexual acts with the defendant's president in his bedroom.  The plaintiff's attorneys then threatened to turn the video over publicly in a manner designed to ruin the defendant's reputation. 

While these type cases are rare, they do show there is a limit to which a plaintiff's attorney can go in making demands on a defendant.


Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider & Stine

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