Hopkins & Carley litigators Jeffrey Essner and Allonn Levy were advised this was a bad economic climate to try a case on behalf of a bank client.
“They said not to expect a jury to award a multimillion-dollar verdict,” Essner said.
But that’s exactly what they did.
The duo from the 50-lawyer San Jose firm represented Mehrdad Elie, the founder and CEO of Alliance Bancorp, now a defunct mortgage company, in a dispute with cofounder Kathleen Smith over loans the two had made to keep their company afloat when the mortgage crisis hit.
They managed to get their client a $5.8 million award from a unanimous jury on Aug. 3. Today, a San Mateo County Superior Court judge backed the award.
“This is a big win for us,” Essner said. “There was a lot of money at play.”
Levy and Essner said it wasn’t easy to get the jury to be sympathetic to a bank owner who was part of an industry-wide failure. “It took about three weeks to do it,” Essner told Legal Pad. They had to explain why banks were failing and why Wall Street investors stopped buying collateralized packaged loans. Levy said another challenge was helping the jury to grasp the huge amounts of money banks like Alliance were dealing with.
Because there was no written agreement about more than $25 million that Elie had wired out, the case wound up one executives’ word against another. Essner’s advice: “Send an email or write a letter or get a contract. If those documents had existed, we may not have had a jury trial.”
— Petra Pasternak