OBA Reimburses Client Losses

January 4, 2022

The Oklahoma Bar Association’s Clients’ Security Fund will pay $176,509.38 to 19 people who lost money or other property from the death or dishonest conduct of their attorney. The association is reimbursing money to the clients of eight deceased, suspended or former lawyers whose actions led to the losses.

“Oklahoma attorneys work hard to maintain good relationships with their clients. Upholding the public’s trust is paramount within the legal profession, so when a lawyer dies or violates that trust, the association assumes responsibility,” said 2021 OBA President Mike Mordy. “Our purpose is to rebuild confidence in our profession by fairly compensating these victims.”

Claims result when an attorney misappropriates client funds or property, is disbarred or dies, and there is no other source for compensation or recovery. The OBA’s Clients’ Security Fund Committee reviews client claims and annually makes recommendations to the OBA Board of Governors on the merits of those claims. Committee Chair Micheal Salem of Norman said claims typically arise when these former attorneys become unstable as a result of a personal crisis, substance abuse or illness and fail to follow Bar Rules of Professional Conduct regarding the safeguarding of client funds or property.

“Unfortunately, the reputation of every lawyer suffers when a very small number of attorneys engage in unethical or illegal behavior,” Salem said. “The Clients’ Security Fund enables us to restore faith in our profession’s integrity, by returning lost money to those who have been harmed by the actions of a few. On behalf of the association, the committee works to assist people who’ve been victimized by the dishonest actions of the very few former lawyers who have misappropriated client funds or property.”

All active Oklahoma lawyers contribute to the fund through a portion of their annual bar dues, and nearly $3.5 million in reimbursements has been paid to clients since the fund was created in 1965.

Former or deceased attorneys for whom the OBA will be paying claims, the individuals to be compensated for their losses and the reimbursement amounts are:

  • Former attorney Charles Burton, Ketchum; client Jimmi Campbell, Sapulpa, $14,027.04.
  • Deceased attorney David Wilson, Stigler; client Sharon Ward, Stigler, $7,364.19.
  • Deceased attorney Joel Utley, Sallisaw; client Chris Royse, Roland, $1,113.75.
  • Deceased attorney Jon Carter, Sallisaw; client Tia Jefferson, Drumright, $1,052.03.
  • Deceased attorney Michael Yeksavich, Tulsa; client Debra Zinn, Tulsa, $701.35.
  • Deceased attorney Robert Vaughn, Oklahoma City; client Dennia Burke, Oklahoma City, $1,753.38.

Former attorney Tuan Khuu, Oklahoma City; clients Maria Hernandez, Oklahoma City, $8,155.97; Maria Cifuentes, Oklahoma City, $7,629.96; Geraldine Stell, Oklahoma City, $15,990.82; Evelyn Vu, Rowlett, Texas, $18,129.24; Wilson Ho, Arlington, Texas, $12,527.83; Tam Nguyen, Edmond, $7,774.48; Tung and Bich Nguyen, Oklahoma City, $30,508.80; Daniel Nguyen, Edmond, $7,629.30; Jerry Ellis, Plainview, Texas, $10,239.74; Uyen Nguyen, Arlington, Texas, $13,325.68; Nam Pham, Oklahoma City, $2,454.73; Cua Ung, Irving, Texas, $15,780.41.

More information about the Clients’ Security Fund can be found on the OBA’s website at www.okbar.org/gc/clients-security-fund.

The 18,000-member Oklahoma Bar Association, headquartered in Oklahoma City, was created by the Oklahoma Supreme Court to advance the administration of justice and to foster and maintain learning, integrity, competence, public service and high standards of conduct among Oklahoma’s legal community.

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