Don’t Let Your Past Haunt You*

Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Clients:

Meet Dennis.

In high school, his senior class voted him “most likely to throw an epic party,” and he took that mantle to college, dropping out after only three semesters due to partying too hard and studying too little.

Unmoored and unhappy, Dennis took a low-level job as a video game programmer, learned coding, and found his ultimate calling in life. Just ten years later, Dennis had founded one of the world’s most successful video game companies, with over 250 employees, offices in five countries, and a successful IPO – with his share of the company valued north of $100M – and counting. Not bad for a college dropout.

Dennis credits his success to hard work, constant learning, and the never-ending support of his wife and kids. Richer than his wildest dreams, he celebrates his successes publicly, throwing extravagant launch parties for his company’s games, buying expensive real estate, and showing up for every public event he can possibly fit into his schedule. After all, his face is the logo of the company, and it’s his face that helps sell games.

After Dennis’ company went public, people started coming out of the woodwork looking for their piece of the pie. The first was an old college buddy who claimed that Dennis stole his video game idea, then, an ex-partner accused Dennis of unfair business practices. Dennis proved in court – at great expense – that both of these claims were outright lies.

Fed up with opportunistic lawsuits, Dennis asked his corporate lawyer, “How do I protect my family and everything I’ve built from greedy opportunists?”

Dennis’ lawyer introduced him to a firm that specialized in estate planning with asset protection. Along with the conventional planning documents, the firm also protected Dennis’ hard-earned wealth from creditors and predators by employing dynasty trusts in jurisdictions that are not as friendly to future creditor claims as California. This and his offshore asset protection trust were implemented to “level the playing field” and protect Dennis to shelter his IPO shares from future death taxes and to “nest egg” a portion of his wealth into a special kind of trust to protect against his shares from future unforeseen legal claims.

Just two years after completing his legal work, Dennis created a game that earned over $2B in sales, and the Wall Street Journal proclaimed him to be the world’s most successful video game creator ever. This huge win for his company once again thrust Dennis into the limelight – but this time, one lawsuit that came at him was personal, horrendous, and life altering.

A woman – claiming to know Dennis during his short time in college, alleged that Dennis sexually assaulted her during their Freshman year. Although she never reported the assault and even now refuses to press charges, she demands $75 million in damages. Dennis doesn’t remember ever meeting this woman and categorically denies assaulting her. But in the current environment, he knows that he will be guilty until proven innocent, and that such an accusation could prove disastrous to his company, not to mention his family.

When Dennis’ umbrella liability carrier denies coverage due to the claim being an excluded item under the terms of his policy, he fears that his entire net worth is exposed.

But is it?

Dennis’ defense counsel immediately meets with the plaintiff’s lawyer and informs her that there is neither insurance coverage, nor a golden lottery ticket at the end of her lawsuit. Even if the plaintiff prevails, the prospects of recovering any meaningful assets to satisfy a judgement is highly unlikely. Unsurprisingly, the plaintiff makes a new demand – for a small five figure “nuisance” sum, which Dennis happily pays, knowing he’ll rest easily with a clear conscious and a bullet-proof asset protection plan that successfully prevents extortion by opportunistic plaintiffs.

With so many past actions – or in the case of Dennis, false accusations – coming back to haunt us in this volatile culture, this type of case is a clarion call to action to take all available steps to protect your hard-earned assets – and your legacy – from someone else’s specious claims. Comprehensive estate planning with asset protection builds “firewall” protections and generally discourages professional plaintiffs or serial litigants. Proper asset protection planning takes advantage of the many opportunities within our legal systems – both domestic and overseas – utilizing well-established strategies to remove one’s assets from a profiteer’s pursuit.

Lawsuits settle for two reasons – doubt as to liability and doubt as to collectability. No matter the former, asset protection provides the latter. Call my office now to find out how we can protect your assets from greedy opportunists.

* The story is not an actual case but a foreseeable depiction of the type of claim one can expect to arise and some of the steps that may be taken to protect one’s assets from a future unforeseen legal claim.

Posted in Client Alert, Scenario.