McGraw hires familiar faces for Bank of America suit

By John O'Brien | Jan 13, 2010


HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (Legal Newsline) - West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw has again hired his brother's nephew to represent the State, this time in an antitrust lawsuit against Bank of America.

Cook Hall & Lampros of Atlanta is one of three firms representing the State, along with Charleston's Berthold Tiano & O'Dell and DiTrapano Barrett & DiPiero. All three firms have contributed to McGraw's election campaigns.

A federal judge is currently deciding if the suit should become part of a multi-district litigation proceeding or sent back to Mason County, where it was originally filed.

Edward Shuff Cook is the nephew by marriage of former state Supreme Court Justice Warren McGraw, Darrell's brother. His bio says he has been appointed a special assistant attorney general in several states.

It's not the first time the Democratic attorney general has appointed Cook. Republican challenger Dan Greear attempted to make an issue out of it during the 2008 campaign.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Fran Hughes told The Daily Mail in 2004 that "(w)e're not going to do anything just because somebody is related by marriage to Warren McGraw" in a report about Cook introducing now-disgraced attorney Melvyn Weiss to McGraw.

McGraw supported Weiss being awarded a state litigation contract. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to making illegal client kickbacks and was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

McGraw hired Cook, then at Provost Umphrey, in 2001 for a case involving law firm Steptoe & Johnson.

Employees of the Cook firm and their spouses have donated $20,000 to McGraw since 2004, when it donated $6,000. By comparison, they have only spent $2,450 in contributions in Georgia in that time.

Also, the Berthold firm has donated $4,240 since 2004 and the DiTrapano firm, a frequent selection by McGraw to represent the State, donated at least $30,000 in 2004 and $5,050 in 2008.

The complaint against Bank of America alleges it and unnamed conspirators manipulated the municipal bond market. Because the company has received a conditional leniency letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bank of America has "admitted it has participated in a criminal antitrust conspiracy."

The leniency agreement allowed the company to avoid any criminal prosecution by agreeing to cooperate fully with federal authorities.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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