Reggie Fowler, the former NFL minority owner linked to missing Tether and Bitfinex funds, owes his defense team more than $600,000, according to a new court filing on Tuesday.
Fowler’s lawyers want to drop out of the case due to nonpayment, but they need to get permission from the court first.
Last we left off, U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter ordered attorneys at law firm Hogan Lovells—also representing defense lawyer Scott Rosenblum at Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry—to file three versions of a sealed letter dated Nov. 18.
The public version—redacting what should not be revealed to the government or the public—discloses more details on the lawyers’ frustrations with a client who perpetually strings them along.
Hogan Lovells attorneys James McGovern and Michael Hefter initially asked for a $25,000 retainer in late 2018 when they first met with their client. Fowler only ever paid the retainer, and two years later, he now owes them $600,000.
His defense team believed all the stories he told them that he was swimming in money, so they weren’t too concerned—at first.
“From the very inception of this matter, we have been led to believe that Mr. Fowler is a high net worth individual with substantial assets, which would allow him to pay his legal bills with little hardship,” the lawyers said in their letter to the judge.
Hogan Lovells started working with Fowler on October 18, 2018. They had their first meeting with him on Nov. 8, 2018, around the time Fowler was initially contacted by the FBI.
“When we agreed to represent Mr. Fowler, it was our understanding that he had been targeted by cryptocurrency businessmen seeking to take advantage of Mr. Fowler’s personal balance sheet as a means of transacting cryptocurrency transactions without drawing the attention of bank compliance officers or regulators,” they said.
Fowler was later arrested in Chandler, Arizona, on April 30, 2019. (DoJ press release and indictment.)
After his release in May on $5 million bail, Fowler hired Scott Rosenblum to join the defense team. Rosenblum asked for a $275,000 retainer and an additional $85,000 per week retainer, if the case went to trial. Rosenblum received a partial retainer of $100,000, which Hogan Lovells notes that Fowler paid “while he had several unpaid, overdue invoices for legal services issued by Hogan Lovells.”
Additionally, Fowler paid another lawyer (unnamed) in Portugal in full for her services. He also paid international law firm Reed Smith LLP for services rendered in 2018.
“The fact that other attorneys had received payments from Mr. Fowler for their services led us reasonably to believe that Mr. Fowler’s representations to us that he would pay our bills was truthful,” the lawyers said.
In the second half of 2019, the lawyers were diligent about contacting Fowler for money. Each time they reached out, he told them payment was imminent and that “transactions or business deals that would fund the payment of our fees were in process”—but he never paid him.
In February, following a plea bargain that went awry and a superseding indictment, the defense team realized the case would likely go to trial, requiring a substantial amount of work, and still no check from their client.
Fowler has ample funds, they said, including “$10 million in real estate that is unencumbered and could have been liquidated or monetized at any point during the past two years.” His refusal to pay, the lawyers added, has “led to a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship.”
The government has till Dec. 8 to respond and replies are due Dec. 11.
If you like my work, please consider supporting my writing by subscribing to my Patreon account for as little as $5 a month.