On December 17, this blog explored links between defendants in the Alabama corruption scandal and the ongoing investigation into Auburn’s recruitment of eventual Heisman Trophy winning Quarterback, Cam Newton. One of the defendants in that trial—Robert Geddie—is a graduate of Auburn University and partner in the lobbying firm of Fine-Geddie. Fine-Geddie has a multimillion dollar relationship with the Auburn University Athletics fundraising organization, Tigers Unlimited Foundation.
As shown in the viral December 17 post, Sam Franklin—a prominent attorney in the state of Alabama and a partner of the law firm Lightfoot Franklin White—appears on the chop list of court documents filed in motions by the defense in the corruption probe. Franklin is also the chief counsel for Auburn in the NCAA probe, and represents Bobby Lowder in the multimillion dollar class action lawsuit filed by Colonial Bank employees. SportsByBrooks later determined that Franklin had been hired by Geddie, a criminal defendant in a federal corruption rap, who quietly switched attorneys about a month ago. From Franklin’s bio at the firm’s website, his practice areas are:
- Directors’ and Officers’ Liability
- Environmental and Toxic Torts
- Business Litigation
- Product Liability
- Securities and Shareholder Disputes
- Pharmaceuticals, Medical Devices & Healthcare
- Class Actions
- NCAA Compliance and Investigations
- Professional Liability Litigation
Criminal defense is not listed. Why would Geddie hired a prominent civil litigator and NCAA compliance expert to lead his defense in a criminal trial? Why would Franklin—who already represents Auburn University and Auburn Board of Trustees member Bobby Lowder—agree to represent the lobbyist who has such close ties to Auburn University’s private fundraising organization?
Attorneys and others in the legal profession universally insist that Mr. Franklin is every bit the ethical, professional attorney his reputation projects. Accordingly, we can safely assume that he has fully explored any conflict of interest issues and found none. If none of his clients have conflicting interests in the cases, then would not all the interests be the same?
The answer to that will be interesting.
UPDATE TO ADD: emails from readers point to Franklin’s reputation as a stellar negotiator. That is, he’s known as a deal maker. My speculation: Could Geddie be close to doing what Jarrod Massey did last week? Massey worked for Ronnie Gilley and Geddie worked for Milton McGregor in the alleged pay-for-vote scandal. Massey has changed his plea in exchange for testimony.
But here’s another connecting of the dots between Colonial, Auburn and the myriad of investigations, indictments and upcoming trials. According to this CNN/Money report, Colonial Bank switched from a federal to a state bank charter in June 2008 only five years after applying for and receiving federal credentials from the US Comptroller of the Currency. Why? The official storyline from Colonial was that they switched to save on filing and other fees. But financial industry insiders believe there was another reason why Colonial felt it would receive friendlier regulatory treatment from the Alabama Banking Department, and it wasn’t because the feds were pressuring Colonial management to reduce exposure to the then imploding mortgage market.
Since 2005, the Alabama Banking Department has been run by Superintendent John D. Harrison, who apparently has close family ties to William King. William King is co-counsel along with Sam Franklin on the Auburn University NCAA compliance team. Franklin also represented former Auburn football coach and athletic director Pat Dye in the infamous Eric Ramsey Case. Dye sat on Colonial Bank’s Board of Directors, as did Milton McGregor, one of the two central figures in the bingo corruption case.