"Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives."
Houston attorney Warren Todd Hoeffner may have to spend days of his life behind bars, where he'd have plenty of time to indulge his fascination with sand.
Hoeffner was riding high until a couple of years ago. He'd gone for the big one and won: a $34 million settlement with the Hartford Insurance Co. on behalf of clients claiming silica-related illnesses. The wily lawyer reportedly walked away with more than $5 million in attorney's fees.
But the outcome was never in doubt for Hoeffner, prosecutors charge. He'd taken out insider insurance.
In June of 2007, Hoeffner was indicted, along with two former Hartford employees, on 14 felony counts of conspiracy, fraud, and money laundering.
The indictment lays out a classic inside job. Hoeffner's co-conspirators handled claims against companies insured by Hartford, obligingly recommending a large settlement for his case. They didn't do this out of the kindness of their hearts. According to the indictment, they profited handsomely, splitting a $3 million kickback.
During the two-and-a-half years it took to put the deal over, Hoeffner allegedly gave the maladjusted adjusters the royal treatment: luxury trips, luxury cars, luxury night life. It was a small price to pay for a guaranteed bonanza.
Warren Todd Hoeffner's power profile now reads like a cheesy soap opera script, and the sands are rapidly passing through the Hoeffner hourglass. His trial began August 24th.
Silica, a purer form of sand, was supposed to be the next asbestos – or at least that was the dream of some greedy, unethical trial lawyers. However, because of the blatant fraud outlined in the Hoeffner indictment, that dream may never become a reality. That's a good thing for the rest of us.
During the last three decades, ten of thousands of asbestos lawsuits have minted a large number of millionaire and even billionaire trial lawyers, while bankrupting 60 U.S. companies and putting thousands out of work.
How many companies will be destroyed by silly silica suites in the years to come? None, we hope, but we'll stay tuned.