Lawyer’s theft explained by irrational desire to save more

by Walter Olson on September 10, 2008

John Duncan, once a prominent attorney with the Maine firm of Verrill Dana, was disbarred and faces prison after theft and embezzlement from the law firm, overbilling of clients and tax evasion. “His lawyer, Toby Dilworth, said Duncan had an ‘irrational’ desire to save more, to provide his family with greater financial security,” though over the period in question Duncan’s household had more than a million dollars in assets and an annual income topping a quarter million. (Martha Neil, “Ex-Chair of Prominent Maine Firm Gets 2 Years in Tax Case”, ABA Journal, Sept. 5).

{ 3 comments }

1 Richard Nieporent 09.10.08 at 9:16 am

His lawyer, Toby Dilworth, said Duncan had an “irrational” desire to save more, to provide his family with greater financial security.

Yes, you could say that or if you were less charitable you would say that he was just giving himself a small bonus every year. I guess he thought that nobody would notice the approximately $30K per year that he was slipping into his own pocket. I wonder how his lawyer could make that argument with a straight face. It explains nothing and excuses nothing.

2 AZFlyer 09.10.08 at 4:04 pm

I wouldn’t say he had an “irrational desire to save more, to provide his family with greater financial security”. There’s nothing irrational about that. I’d say he had an irrational desire to steal other peoples’ money. Plain and simple.

3 John Burgess 09.10.08 at 5:18 pm

Stealing other people’s money is only irrational if you assume you’ll never get caught.

That assumption may or may not be rational, but it’s not a priori irrational. If Mr. Duncan had quit, say, after eight years, rather than being caught in year 10, might he not have escaped the consequences?

Then there’s always the major escape clause: consider Mr. Duncan’s passing away before getting caught.

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