President Barack Obama, who has struggled to raise money among wealthier donors, is turning for support to a scandal-plagued trial lawyer.
Jeremy Alters, a famed class-action attorney, will host a fundraising dinner at his Golden Beach, Fla., mansion on Tuesday. Tickets range from $15,000 to $60,000 for dinner and VIP tickets.
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Alters is best known for leading a class-action lawsuit to recover damages for Bank of America customers wrongly billed for over-drafting accounts. While the attorney initially garnered praise for taking on America’s largest bank, the episode ended in ignominy.
Bank of America settled the suit for $410 million in 2011, one of the largest settlements awarded against a bank. However, legal fees accounted for $123 million in the case, or about 30 percent of the settlement, to be distributed among the 40 law firms involved in the case. This left less than $27 per person for the suit’s 13.2 million customers—$7 less than a single overdraft fee. Fellow attorneys on the suit were not pleased.
"While large in the abstract, [the settlement] is only 9 percent of the over $4.5 billion in damages sustained by the class," wrote fellow suit attorney Barry Himmelstein.
Alters, however, never collected on the nine-figure sum. An Argentinian law firm charged him with stealing the case out from under them. He was eventually forced out of his position as lead attorney of the suit. The loss of the suit was only the beginning of Alters’ decline.
The Florida Bar Association suspended Alters in December 2011 for allegedly misappropriating trust account funds that his firm was directing. The ban was lifted in January after Alters challenged it in court.
Alters has also been plagued by claims he took advantage of his former nanny, Katelyn Sullivan.
Sullivan is suing him for the more than $200,000 in loans and unpaid wages she says Alters owes her. She alleges that the millionaire attorney forced her to lease a Mercedes because he was embarrassed at the sight of her Volvo in his driveway. She also alleges that the big-time fundraiser forced her to pay catering bills and other costs associated with campaign fundraisers. According to Sullivan, he never repaid her.
Alters served on John Kerry’s finance committee in 2004 and served on Obama’s 2008 finance committee, according to his law firm biography, where he also lays out his supposed career accomplishments, including a $1.2 billion victory that has never been paid.
Alters sued the Cuban dictator Fidel, his brother Raul, and deceased liberal Che Guevara on behalf of a former CIA agent who was tortured by the communist regime. He achieved the billion-dollar settlement in federal court, but never collected a dime for his client. This has not stopped him from taking credit for the lawsuit on his website.
Alters’ lawsuit does not seem to have affected the president’s relationship with some of his other big fundraisers. Obama plans to deliver his convention speech at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
The president has also shown no indication that he will cease his relationship with billionaire investment guru Warren Buffett, who owns $5 billion worth of Bank of America stock.
Buffett has also distinguished himself as an Obama donor. In August, the financier hosted a fundraiser that cost attendees up to $35,800.