In the Matter of David Weldon Gantt, Respondent Appellate No. 2014-002495
Submitted December 1, 2014.
Lesley M. Coggiola, Disciplinary Counsel, and Barbara M. Seymour, Deputy Disciplinary Counsel, both of Columbia, for Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Frank L. Eppes, Esquire, of Eppes & Plumblee, PA, of Greenville, for respondent.
TOAL, C.J., PLEICONES, BEATTY, KITTREDGE and HEARN, JJ., concur.
[411 S.C. 203] PER CURIAM:
In this attorney disciplinary matter, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel and respondent have entered into an Agreement for Discipline by Consent (Agreement) pursuant to Rule 21 of the Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement (RLDE) contained in Rule 413 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (SCACR). In the Agreement, respondent admits misconduct and consents to the imposition of a confidential admonition or public reprimand with conditions. We accept the Agreement and issue a public reprimand with conditions as set [411 S.C. 204] forth hereafter in this opinion. The facts, as set forth in the Agreement, are as follows.
In 1999, respondent began practicing law with Fredrick Scott Pfeiffer. Over the years, Mr. Pfeiffer began to enter into various business ventures with clients, some of which involved real estate investment and development. Respondent developed a fairly extensive real estate practice and, fro time to time, closed loans for entities with which Mr. Pfeiffer was involved, either as an investor or owner.
Respondent represented a company (Client A) owned by three clients in connection with the development of a tract of property (Development 1). ABC Company, a company owned by Mr. Pfeiffer and his client, Client X, assisted Client A in financing the Development 1 project.
In April 2006, Mr. Pfeiffer approached respondent regarding a new development project (Development 2) with the three firm clients who owned Client A. Mr. Pfeiffer and the three clients told respondent that they needed someone with good credit to guarantee a loan in order to obtain financing for the Development 2 project. The clients agreed to give respondent an interest in the new development company, called Development 2
Company, as payment for legal fees incurred in connection with the Development 1 closings and other work performed for them. In exchange, respondent agreed to personally guarantee the loan obtained by Development 2 Company.
Mr. Pfeiffer prepared the corporate formation documents for Development 2 Company on behalf of respondent and the three clients. Although respondent believed that his interest in Development 2 Company was only ten percent, the corporate documents show respondent as a fifty percent shareholder. In any event, Development 2 Company was owned by respondent and the three clients from March 2006 until January 2007 when respondent relinquished his ownership interest.
Respondent acknowledges that it was a conflict of interest for him to engage in a business transaction with law firm clients. See Rule 1.8(a), RPC, Rule 407, SCACR. He acknowledges he failed to ensure that the terms of the transaction were fully disclosed and transmitted in writing in a [411 S.C. 205] manner that could be easily understood by the clients. He further admits that he failed to advise his clients in writing of the desirability of seeking the advice of independent legal counsel regarding the formation of Development 2 Company. Further, respondent acknowledges that he failed to communicate to the clients reasonably adequate information and an explanation about the material risks and reasonably available alternatives to entering into a partnership with their ...