Stark County Bar Association v. Buttacavoli – Case Brief Summary (Ohio)

In Stark County Bar Association v. Buttacavoli, 96 Ohio St. 3d 424, 2002 Ohio 4743, 775 N.E.2d 818 (Ohio 2002), the lawyer was both a practicing attorney and a financial planner and consultant. Id. at 819.

A client, a sixty-five-year-old man, hired Buttacavoli to provide estate planning and financial advice. Buttacavoli prepared a will for the client and advised the client to invest funds in a variable annuity. Id.

Although Buttacavoli stood to receive a $3,491.71 commission from the sale of the annuity, he did not disclose to the client his own financial interest in the advice he gave. Id. at 819-20.

A panel of the Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline of the Ohio Supreme Court found that Buttacavoli's conduct violated the Ohio Code of Professional Responsibility DR 5-101(A)(1) (1996) (absent full disclosure and consent, employment shall not be accepted if the exercise of professional judgment will be or reasonably may be affected by the lawyer's financial, business, property, or personal interest) and DR 5-104(A) (absent full disclosure and consent, a lawyer shall not enter into a business transaction with a client if they have differing interests therein and the client expects the lawyer to exercise his professional judgment for the protection of the client). Id. at 820.

Specifically, the panel determined:

"The legal and financial advice was part of an integrated transaction requiring full disclosure of respondent's financial interest in the investment transactions and informed consent by the clients based upon such full disclosure. Moreover, the panel found that in respondent's role as attorney, his legal advice could reasonably be affected by his financial interest in the investment advice he offered." Id.

The Ohio Supreme Court adopted the panel's recommendation.