After Hurricanes Laura and Ida devastated homes, businesses, and lives across southern Louisiana, many people are still reeling from the ongoing effects of these catastrophic storms. Many Louisiana businesses and residents sought out legal representation to find compensation for the restoration after the devastation.
But not all law firms are well-intentioned, or well-run.
A Texas law firm, McClenny, Moseley & Associates, has just been exposed by judges in the Louisiana federal courts for essentially defrauding their own clients and as a result are banned from practicing in Louisiana.
None of the clients expected that their issues from the storm would be compounded by the same attorneys they thought would help them with their Louisiana hurricane damage insurance claims.
In fact, some of MMA’s “clients” did not know they hired the firm at all.
Our firm, Kiefer & Kiefer—Attorneys at Law, is locally situated in New Orleans, so we’ve seen hurricane devastation first-hand. We know how difficult it is to recover from storm destruction, deal with insurance companies, and handle the emotional toll such catastrophic events can take.
However, we can’t even imagine how it must feel to have a law firm compound instead of cure all of that stress.
How Does Something Like This Happen?
This sadly exposes the underbelly of bad actor attorneys and law firms that pop up after a catastrophic event to take advantage of people who are already victims.
McClenny, Moseley, & Associates, is a Houston-based law firm that was founded by Zach Moseley in Texas, who had less than 10 years of experience practicing law. The company registered in Louisiana less than two months after Hurricane Laura, an unabashed strategy to prey on Louisiana victims of that storm.
The firm prided itself on its tech-forward approach to practicing law, which ultimately led to its inevitable downfall. Through posts on Facebook and Youtube, firm members discussed breaking court filing systems by filing so many cases in one day and helping more storm clients than any plaintiff attorney in history. Through these bold and widespread statements, the spotlight of scrutiny shifted to their cases which resulted in the uncovering of their schemes and unethical practices, which U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael B. North described as a “brazen, multi-faceted campaign to enrich themselves with ill-gotten contingency fees.”
First, MMA used a roofing company to canvas neighborhoods to signup clients for MMA under the guise of signing contracts for roofing work. This resulted in hundreds (if not thousands) of people signing up for legal representation and allowing attorneys to act on their behalf and take their insurance profits—some of which were not even in dispute—when they simply thought they were signing up to get a roofing quote.
Second, MMA used an Arizona-based legal services firm called Tort Network, which operates under the name Velawcity, to send out more than 1 million mailers, texts, and online messages to collect at least 4,200 other storm victims as clients for MMA. This program mass-messaged links for potential clients to follow. At the end of the “free case evaluation” link, there were buttons for users to “See if I Qualify” which provided “three easy steps” to file a claim. Ultimately, this maze of links asked users to auto-sign a document, which had the first mention of MMA throughout the entire process. This led someone who was merely trying to get information on an insurance claim to actually retain an attorney despite ever talking to one and without realizing they even did it.
What happened next is horrible. These Louisiana storm victims who literally had insurance policies of their own, who were just trying to get their homes repaired and their roofs fixed were not able to speak to their own insurance companies because they had retained an attorney, even though they did not know they did. They also had not spoken to a lawyer and many attempts to speak with a lawyer went unanswered, so they were stuck in a purgatory where they could not move forward with their home repairs. Some of the victims were in the process of getting their insurance payments, but because they now “had a lawyer”, the payments went to a law firm that took 25% to 40% of the money they already had coming to them, making them unable to perform the repairs they needed to get back in their homes.
The “clients” that MMA accrued through the roofing and mass-messaging schemes were all duped into retaining a law firm without their knowledge and adequate consent. Many of these “clients” never knew or heard of MMA and did not want them to represent them. And when MMA did recover proceeds on their behalf, many “clients” never received a single penny of the money they were entitled.
To this day, MMA cannot adequately account for all of their client’s money and where it has gone.
Response by Louisiana Courts and Officials.
Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon labeled the firm’s actions as “fraudulent” and imposed maximum fines of $500,000 each against MMA, two founding partners, and their Louisiana managing partner for their “illegal insurance scheme…(that) is frankly one of the most egregious cases that have ever come through this department.” The fines totaled $2 Million.
The LA Supreme Court suspended many of its attorneys from practicing law in Louisiana. U.S. District Judge James Cain in Lake Charles accused MMA and its lawyers of “misconduct” and barred them from handling any more cases in the Western District of Louisiana federal court for at least three months. Several judges have issued scathing criticisms of MMA and their practices in open court.
Most recently, on May 18, 2023, the Louisiana Supreme Court became the latest judicial body to weigh in on this widening controversy. Under a “Global Order,” the LA Supreme Court ordered Edward Walters of Walters, Papillion, Thomas, Cullens, LLC, to be appointed as special trustee over the hurricane and storm-related suits filed by MMA in Louisiana state courts which are currently under a global stay. This Global Order may be the best thing to happen to MMA clients to date.
Under the Supreme Court’s Order, the special trustee will:
- Create a list of attorneys in good standing to assume the representation of MMA’s former clients
- Notify MMA’s former clients of MMA’s inability to represent them going forwards and to determine if they have sought new legal representation for their storm-related claims
- Refer clients without representation to the list of available attorneys
- Facilitating the return of files to clients or their new representatives
- Perform other duties as directed by the Court
What are Some Solutions for MMA’s Prior Clients?
Despite being at the center of a hurricane-sized controversy, the former clients of MMA will finally have the chance to get some justice. Either through the special trustee or on their own, these clients will now be represented by attorneys in good standing for their storm-related cases. Hopefully, their new attorneys will be better than MMA in every way and get them across the finish line of this uniquely Louisiana marathon of recovery.
Regardless of the Supreme Court’s Order, many prior clients of MMA have sought and retained new attorneys for their hurricane cases. Now, because of all of the media attention, ALL of the people affected by MMA’s unethical practices will have the opportunity to move forwards with new legal representation. Most importantly, they can do so without incurring additional attorney’s fees.
If you are stuck in this terrible situation and are represented by McClenny, Moseley, & Associates, you are free to get other representation on your own and you do not have to wait to be contacted by the courts or trustee. You can do so without incurring any additional money in attorneys fees.
Contact Kiefer & Kiefer for Ethical Representation
Being located in Louisiana, the attorneys at Kiefer & Kiefer have witnessed many friends and family members rebuild their homes and lives after devastating hurricanes. With the assistance of hard-working and diligent attorneys, these victims were able to recover the insurance payouts they deserved. If you or a loved one were a prior client of MMA, please call Kiefer & Kiefer. You deserve ethical attorneys that understand your situation from a local Louisianian perspective.