Lawyers battle addiction and depression, too. Now they’re starting to talk about it

During its annual luncheon on Friday, August 25, 2017, at the Biltmore Hotel, the Cuban American Bar Association featured Brian Cuban, a Dallas attorney and brother of Mark Cuban, to talk about his personal journey with addiction, eating disorders, depression and suicide attempts. Cuban said it was important to have difficult conversations as the rate of suicides among attorneys is growing.

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If you or someone you know is considering self-harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 800-273-8255

Cuban American Bar Assoc. Zeroes In On Attys’ Mental Health

By Carolina Bolado

Law360, Miami (August 25, 2017, 9:47 PM EDT) — After the suicide in June of a prominent Miami attorney rocked the local legal community, the Cuban American Bar Association is making mental health a focus, starting with an annual luncheon Friday that featured attorney Brian Cuban — brother of businessman Mark Cuban — to talk about his struggle with addiction and depression.

Cuban, who joked that he is “a Cuban, but not Cuban,” told the crowd of attorneys and judges how he would go into court high on cocaine and attend mediation sessions hung over from the previous night’s drinking. His struggle with addiction cost him his law practice, his clients and relationships with family members.

It came to a head in 2005, when his two brothers found him with a gun about to take his own life. At treatment centers, he noticed that a large number of people there seeking help were attorneys.

Now that he speaks publicly about his battles with depression, eating disorders and drugs, he says he gets emails every week from attorneys struggling with mental illness.

“I think lawyers are very reluctant to deal with how they got there,” Cuban said. “We bring our baggage to the courtroom, to the office, to the hearing.”

Dr. Samantha Behbahani, a licensed clinical psychologist in Miami, told the crowd that the perfectionist personalities prevalent in the legal profession increase the odds of suicide among those with depression. She noted that while the suicide rate in the general population in the U.S. is about 11 per 100,000 people, it’s six times higher for those in the legal profession.

CABA President Javier Lopez, a partner at KozyakTropin& Throckmorton LLP, said he had initially planned a standard panel of judges and attorneys to lead a discussion on a legal issue at the annual luncheon, but after the suicide in June of Colson Hicks Eidson partner Ervin Gonzalez, he began to think of how to shift the focus to mental health.

Lopez said that about a month after Gonzalez’s death, a manila folder with Cuban’s book about his battle with addiction, “The Addicted Lawyer,” landed on his desk. Lopez called and made a pitch to Cuban, saying the volunteer bar association could not afford to pay a speaking fee, but that the community was hurting and needed to hear his story.

He said he plans to continue to address the issue throughout his one-year term as president of the association, with more events and seminars, as well as using the CABA pro bono program to help attorneys who reach out for assistance.

“In the legal profession, we are scared of showing weakness,” Lopez told the attendees. “Make your practice a priority, but never make it the priority.”

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$39M Settlement Reached for Mortgage Insurance Kickbacks in Florida, New Jersey

A federal magistrate has preliminarily approved three settlements totaling nearly $15 million in a national class action accusing mortgage servicers of taking kickbacks from residential insurers.

According to the complaint, the mortgage companies forced borrowers to buy inflated policies from insurers that funneled some of the money back in the guise of commissions, reimbursements and the provision of below-cost services.

Under the terms of the settlements preliminarily approval by U.S. Magistrate Jonathan Goodman of the Southern District of Florida on Aug. 10, tens of thousands of borrowers will receive between 6 percent and 10.5 percent of the premiums they were overcharged and forced to buy since 2008.

The settlements include Carrington Mortgage Services LLC, Fay Servicing LLC and Residential Credit Solutions Inc. The insurers are American Modern Home Insurance Co. and Southwest Business Corp.

The settlements include attorney fees capped at nearly $2.3 million for the plaintiffs lawyers: Adam Moskowitz, Thomas Ronzetti, Rachel Sullivan and Robert Neary of Kozyak Tropin& Throckmorton in Coral Gables; Lance Harke, Sarah Engel and Howard Bushman of Miami’s HarkeClasby& Bushman; and Aaron Podhurst, Peter Prieto, John Gravante III and Matthew Weinshall of PodhurstOrseck in Miami.

A final approval hearing is scheduled before Goodman in January.

Defense attorneys include Brian Toth of Holland & Knight in Miami; Mark Johnson, Rodger Eckelberry and Robert Tucker of Baker & Hostetler in Columbus, Ohio; Elizabeth Campbell of Locke Lord in West Palm Beach; and Keith Olin of Bressler, Amery & Ross in Fort Lauderdale.

None of the defense counsel responded to a request for comment.

The agreement comes on the heels of another force-placed insurance class action settlement worth nearly $24 million in New Jersey District Court. Judge Noel Hillman approved that settlement July 27. Nearly 75,000 people are members of that class.

The plaintiffs were represented by Moskowitz, Harke and Bushman; Peter Muhic, Donna Moffa and Samantha Holbrook of Pennsylvania’s Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check; and a team of lawyers at Radnor.

The defendants in that case were PHH Mortgage Corp. and Assurant Insurance.

Defense attorneys Robert DiUbaldo and Frank Burt of Carlton Fields did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Moscowitz and his team have taken a leading role in challenging force-placed insurance abuses since 2010, settling 27 class actions nationally on behalf of some 5.8 million homeowners.

“We’ve worked with 57 law firms all around the country working out these settlements,” Moscowitz said. “It’s been a wonderful experience, and we’ve really been able to transform the force-placed insurance industry.”

“Most of the conduct we complained about beginning six years ago has been prohibited, but the homeowners are still out the money they paid.”

Creditor-placed or force-placed insurance is common in the mortgage industry, where lenders require borrowers to maintain insurance on property securing a loan and can demand the purchase of new coverage in case a policy lapses.

As alleged in multiple suits and investigations around the country, including the just-settled actions, in some instances mortgage service companies have allowed insurers an exclusive right to monitor their loan portfolios and force place policies on borrowers in return for kickbacks disguised as commissions for assisting in issuing policies, expense reimbursements and payments for purported services that had nothing to do with the issuance of insurance.

Moscowitz said that about 15 class actions involving allegations of wrongdoing involving force-placed insurance were filed in the Southern District of Florida, the state where most such policies are sold.

He and his team have been involved in many of them, including a $217 million settlement with Ocwen Loan Servicing and Nationstar Mortgage in 2015.

“I do give a lot of credit to some of the early providers that decided to settle with us,” Moscowitz said. “A settlement take two parties … A lot of these [insurers] want to the right thing and protect their consumers.”

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Hold Your Applause. Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors Are Not Showing Signs of Strength, Yet

Both luxury fashion companies topped earnings estimates but sales were still weak.

By Lindsay Rittenhouse

 “Remember when Krispy Kreme first came out and you had to go to their stores to get them?” Castro said. “As soon as they expanded and customers could start getting them at the grocery store, they became not special anymore.”

Last May, facing declining sales, doughnut maker Krispy Kreme sold itself for $1.35 billion to German food conglomerate JAB Holding, the same company that agreed to take Panera Bread Co. private in April in a deal worth $7.5 billion.

Castro applies that of why Krispy Kreme lost its appeal to both Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren—to survive, they must get their products out of outlets and department stores, narrow their availability. She does not expect retailers that fall somewhere in the middle on price, including Macy’s, to have a place in the evolving retail environment.

She added: “Put your seat belts on and get ready for a wild ride.”

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Making the grade as a trial lawyer

By Mark D. Killian

Early in Javier Lopez’s career, a senior member of his then firm called him into his office and told him to take a seat.

The more experienced, well-respected trial lawyer looked young Lopez in the eye and told him he had a problem with his work. The senior litigator told Lopez that while he had considerable skills, “You are about a B-plus, maybe an A-minus, but you will never be an A-plus trial lawyer.”

“And that’s what I wanted to be,” Lopez, now a partner at Kozyak Tropin & Throckmorton in Miami, told the Young Lawyers Division board at the Bar’s Annual Convention in Boca Raton, while accepting the division’s Diversity Award.

“And, he said, ‘Do you know why? Because you put your family and your faith before your practice,’” said Lopez, adding the partner then went on telling him about family events that he had missed because he was busy at the office.

“And if you ever want to be an A-plus lawyer, that is what you’ve got to do,” Lopez said his boss told him. “I asked him if I was fired, and he said, ‘No you are not, Lopez, but you need to think about this.’”

“So I walked out of the office and I thought: Awesome!” Lopez said. “That is awesome. I can be an A-minus lawyer and have my family and my faith and my friends as my priority. And I think, to be a trial lawyer, you need those things to be the priority in your life because it is about people, how you connect with clients, how you connect with juries.”

Lopez told the assembled young lawyers that while their practices are “absolutely a priority,” it should never be “the priority.”

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