Little action remains in the Al Parish investment fraud case except for victims to cash their distribution checks, yet a few new lawsuits popped up recently seeking damages from the disgraced economist's attorney and accounting firm.
Local mega-firm Motley Rice filed a class-action lawsuit against Robert Pearlman, a Mount Pleasant attorney who represented Parish. The class includes anyone who lost more than $100 in the $70 million collapse.
The lawsuit alleges that Pearlman "failed to exercise reasonable care, skill, prudence and diligence generally recognized in the legal profession under the same or similar circumstances and was grossly negligent and reckless in his conduct." Those actions include helping Parish write a letter to the S.C. Attorney General in 1997 stating that Parish did not receive any commission or fee for his investment pools and did not solicit investors, according to the lawsuit.
"The assertion that Parish was not paid in any way did not conform with what Pearlman knew to be true," the filing says.
Motley Rice attorney Badge Humphries said he hopes the lawsuit "will make additional funds available to the investors as a recovery." He declined to share the amount of damages sought.
Pearlman would not comment on the specific allegations but said he never dealt with investments.
"From my point of view, it's nonsense," he said. "I'm an estate-planning lawyer, and all I ever worked on was wills and trusts for Parish and Mrs. Parish."
A separate lawsuit filed in county court on behalf of two Parish clients makes similar negligence allegations against accounting firm Dixon Hughes, naming three employees in particular: Jan Waring-Woods, Christa Dunn and Benjamin Newton. The lawsuit says they provided a report to Parish clients "for the specific purpose of comforting and reassuring" but never received brokerage statements, which they said they used to compute investment earnings.
The lawsuit says Parish provided the only statements Dixon Hughes used and that those "only summarized imaginary account balances." The lawsuit says the two clients more than doubled their investment after reading the report, sinking an additional $250,000 in Parish's Ponzi scheme.
Another class-action lawsuit moved to federal court makes similar allegations against the accounting firm.
Dixon Hughes issued a statement in response. It said, in part, "Our report made it clear that we did not perform an audit and had we been asked to do so, we might have discovered additional information."
The statement said the accountants performed work under relevant professional standards and that "Dixon Hughes denies the substantive allegations in the lawsuit filed against it and looks forward to presenting its position to the court at the appropriate time."
Nearly 500 clients suffered a loss in Parish's scheme. In 2008, the self-described "Economan" was sentenced to 24 years in prison.