US lawyer charged with bilking clients of $400,000 in damages

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A San Francisco Bay Area lawyer faces charges from the State Bar of California for allegedly bilking clients of $400,000 in damages from electric utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). The funds were meant to pay for damages in a previous wildfire in Yolo County.

The Bar charged William Reed on 4 December with nine counts of misconduct. It has also placed a consumer alert on Reed’s attorney profile.

According to the Bar, Reed held town hall meetings in Yolo County offering to represent people whose property was damaged in the 22 September 2006 Zamora fire caused by downed powerlines. The lawyer eventually represented several ranching families.

“Reed won a $400,000 settlement from PG&E but never paid out his clients. Reed’s clients have still yet to be paid the money they are owed,” the Bar said. Reed was arraigned in the state last April.

As Californians battle wildfires across the state, the Bar has recently issued a fraud alert to warn fire victims of unscrupulous lawyers and what to watch out for in such cases.

The Bar said California law prohibits lawyers or others acting on behalf of a lawyer from:soliciting clients at an accident scene, at a hospital, or on the way to a hospital
  • soliciting clients who, due to their physical, emotional or mental state, may not be able to have reasonable judgment about the hiring of an attorney 
  • seeking clients by mail unless the letter and envelope are clearly labeled as an advertisement
  • promising a particular outcome from the legal representation

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