UTILITY SUING LAWYER, ALLEGING $20 MILLION IN FRAUD, EXTORTIONPosted On: Sep. 28, 1997 12:00 AM CST
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.-FPL Group Inc. is suing an attorney it claims has dogged the utility for years and collected millions in fees and settlements related to shareholder suits.
The parent of Florida Power & Light Co. is charging in a suit filed Aug. 22 that Richard Greenfield and his firm, Greenfield & Rifkin of West Palm Beach, Fla., and Ardmore, Pa., committed fraud and extortion to extract nearly $20 million from FPL Group in two suits in the early 1990s.
The FPL suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Miami, alleges violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and seeks return with interest of settlement amounts paid by FPL Group liability insurer Associated Electric & Gas Insurance Services Ltd. The suit asks for unspecified punitive damages. AEGIS, a Bermuda-domiciled surplus lines mutual insurer, is not a party to the suit.
Mr. Greenfield said the FPL lawsuit was an attempt to intimidate him in anticipation of a suit he filed Aug. 29 alleging mismanagement of FPL nuclear power plants.
"We've successfully sued them in past, and I guess that means they're afraid of the current suit."
A statement by FPL Group General Counsel Dennis Coyle said Mr. Greenfield's "current extortion scheme" began when he sent letters in 1996 demanding that "FPL Group's board of directors sue themselves and various officers of the company" for damages allegedly suffered by the company because of problems at FPL Group's St. Lucie County, Fla., nuclear power plant and other issues.
Based on an investigation of nearly 10 months by an independent legal counsel and a committee of non-management directors of FPL Group, Mr. Greenfield's demands were rejected, according to Mr. Coyle. The statement said Mr. Greenfield has been "stalking FPL Group for years."
"I don't know what that means," Mr. Greenfield said. "Have I been watching them? Yes of course. . .They've done a lot of bad things over the last nine years."