American Apparel CEO, consensual masturbationist and constant controversialist Dov Charney may be besieged by bad publicity, but it takes one bad barrister named Fink to make him look good.
Serial Settlement Seeker,
Keith Fink, Esq.
Keith Fink has been plaguing a wealth of celebrities for years. In each case, the lawyer concocts lurid allegations that he leaks to the media to leverage settlements from his name-brand targets: He has sued Marilyn Manson (for using the band’s money to purchase ‘Nazi skeletons’); Brad Pitt’s agent (for “conducting meetings in the nude,”) and Ellen DeGeneres (for breaking a dog adoption agreement over which she later cried on national TV). In Dov Charney’s case, he alleged that Dov wore a “cock sock,” held meetings in the nude (clearly a recycled claim from a previous case) and supposedly told plaintiff Mary Nelson that she could “come over to his house, watch TV, have a drink, even masturbate and leave,” and he would still have faith in her.
Fink has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Gawker, the New York Times and BusinessWeek. He has appeared on Dateline, MSNBC and The O’Reilly Factor, positioned as a legal advocate for victims. But last year, Keith Fink and his client Mary Nelson were sanctioned by a court in Los Angeles for concocting a fraudulent scheme to elevate Nelson’s monetary damages claim against Charney.
In her sexual harassment lawsuit which Fink stated in emails would disappear for $2 million in cash, Nelson claimed that she was forced to take a low paying job after she was allegedly wrongfully terminated by American Apparel. In reality, Nelson and Fink instructed Nelson’s new employer to divert a portion of her income into a corporation owned by Nelson so as to deflate her reported income (and thereby inflate her damages claim). These facts came to light when the lawyer for Nelson’s new employer intervened and attempted to stop Fink and Nelson.
The Schmata King: Dov Charney
The trial court subsequently ruled that Nelson had, in fact, diverted portions of her income into her corporation and failed to disclose her full earnings to the court. As a result, the court sanctioned Nelson $7,500, and Keith Fink is currently under investigation by the California State Bar for his involvement in the scheme.
Declaration against Keith Fink and Mary Nelson – Fined By Court for $7,500
Finally, American Apparel’s counsel confirms that, on the eve before the trial, Fink admitted that his case was “bogus” and that his client was unstable. Then, he offered American Apparel a win-win opportunity: a default judgment in an arbitration setting whereby his client would admit she was not sexually harassed, and a one-way confidentiality agreement.
The catch to Fink’s cockamamie plan was for American Apparel to pay more than half of the 2.5 million dollars in fees he had racked up. Being that they were looking at a month in court and millions in legal fees, this was, at face value, a tantalizing offer.
So, what went wrong? (The only outlet doing any decent reporting on the matter is Jezebel)
Keith Fink suddenly refused to participate in the “confession arbitration” which was to be held in San Francisco. Perhaps he was concerned that it would become apparent that he had pursued a bogus case against American Apparel. On NBC, he said that it wasn’t about the money. So, how could he solicit a confession from his client and be getting paid off at the same time? He didn’t. Fink basically tried to get the money without the confession. And that is where the attorney may have committed a crime.
There is little doubt that Fink blackmailed American Apparel. If the company refused to fork over the cash he was going to “expose” the settlement agreement.
Keith Fink “I will blow this wide open” Email
When the court ruled in American Apparel’s favor in the Mary Nelson case and found Fink to be in breach of the agreement, the vexatious litigator turned around and filed a wrongful termination suit on behalf of an employee fired for methamphetamine abuse days before the two year statute of limitations expired – ignoring the fact that the client had written and submitted a two page defense of Dov Charney that called the Mary Nelson lawsuit a “joke” and Fink, a “vulture.”
He wrote: (see full document here)
“Success comes with a price, and for Mr. Charney, it is coming at a high price. Vultures circle him and when they see a chance to strike, they will do so. In my opinion, it is a make money easy scheme and it is one of the things that are wrong with America. Instead of looking at successful people and admiring them and trying to emulate the way success was achieved, that is by working hard, some people take the easy path by finding a lawyer willing to take a case on contingency, and sue for anything that might land them a settlement. It is definitely an easier way to make money than working hard for it. In my view, it should be considered as stealing, won’t you agree? Find a successful person whose business is generates a lot of income, make the person a target for any lawsuit, find a lawyer that will take the case for contingency and if the case wins, you get easy money. You just stole that person’s fruit of hard work and labor without even helping in attaining the success that he strove for. Is that fair? Of course not, but it happens in reality. All the vultures are suing those successful businesses in hopes of getting a piece of the revenue, without lifting a finger to help in its acquisition.”
In the end, Fink is going to have to explain to a third party arbitrator why he was unwilling to settle his case as promised. Because Keith Fink may have committed extortion, attempted to acquire a PR consulting job from American Apparel in exchange for a settlement, concocted a scheme with his client to fabricate evidence and repeatedly kept the case in the media, he’s looking at a damages suit potentially in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Not only that, but he is reportedly being investigated by the California State Bar.
Mark Ebner’s book, Six Degrees of Paris Hilton will be released in February 2009.