For decades, famed legal titan Tom Girardi has been known across California for winning lawsuits for ‘the little guys.’ Nationally, he won recognition for his involvement in a case against Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), made famous by the 2000 film ‘Erin Brokovich.’
He also became a fixture on the LA social scene, attending lavish parties, flying on private jets, and flaunting his wealth on the Bravo TV show, ‘Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,’ alongside soon-to-be ex-wife, Erika Jayne.
But most recently, he’s been in the news for cheating colleagues, abandoning clients, and avoiding investigations by the State Bar of California.
“When you’re so involved in the [State] Bar, the Bar is conflicted from investigating you,” says LA Times investigative reporter Matt Hamilton, whose investigation alongside colleague Harriet Ryan, reveals that Girardi and his law firm were sued dozens of times by disgruntled clients. “That’s one way Girardi was able to avoid scrutiny of the agency.”
Girardi won large settlements for clients, including field workers at the Dole Food Corporation and victims of the 2018 Lion Air airplane crash. But in many cases, clients did not receive the payments they were owed.
“[When] you look back at some of these cases, there is ample evidence that he had misappropriated client funds,” says Ryan. “Like [Girardi and his firm are] presenting accounting showing hundreds of thousands of dollars to people who had nothing to do with the case. What? That’s settlement money for their clients.”
Clients who still haven’t seen any funds they were promised by settlements or court proceedings, may never see them. But, the California State Bar has filed charges against Girardi. And he may face other legal consequences later this year, including a bankruptcy proceeding, his divorce proceedings, and a potential criminal charge that could come out of an ongoing investigation in Chicago regarding missing client funds owed to victims from the 2018 Lion Air crash.