Magazine article American Banker

Barnett Seeking to Disqualify Lawyer from Class Action

Magazine article American Banker

Barnett Seeking to Disqualify Lawyer from Class Action

Article excerpt

Barnett Banks Inc. has asked a federal court to disqualify the plaintiffs' lawyer from a pending class action against the bank.

The Jacksonville, Fla.-based bank's lawyers have filed an emergency motion in court to disqualify Jonathan L. Alpert from representing the plaintiffs in a class action that alleges Barnett's securities subsidiary employees did not properly disclose the risks of mutual fund investments.

The bank is also asking for the return of confidential company documents that Mr. Alpert included in the class action filing.

This is the first time a bank has taken action against Mr. Alpert, a Tampa lawyer who has filed similar suits against other large banks and thrifts with securities operations in Florida. Mr. Alpert's targets include First Union Corp., Amsouth Bancorp., Great Western Financial Corp., and NationsBank Corp.

"He's making allegations against institutions for not following regulations, but he can't follow the basic ethical guidelines of his profession," said Peter W. Homer, the Miami-based attorney representing Barnett. In the filing, Mr. Homer cites American Bar Association and Florida Bar Association ethical guidelines for handling privileged and confidential documents.

But according to a class action expert, to get Mr. Alpert disqualified Barnett's attorneys must prove he obtained the documents illegally .

"His job is to zealously represent his clients," said John Coffee, a professor at Columbia University Law School. He added, however, that professional sanctions can be brought against Mr. …

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