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The Courthouse News Service said today (Jan. 4) that Michael Shames has sued Utility Consumers' Action Network (UCAN), the organization he once headed, for a "systematic and calculated plan of character assassination and economic harassment." (I have not yet seen the complaint, so for now will rely on the news service account; later, I will get the complaint and attempt to get quotations from some of the persons allegedly cited therein.) "Shames seeks damages for libel, conspiracy, wrongful firing, blacklisting, malicious prosecution, privacy invasion, intentional interference with prospective business relations," among other charges, according to the news service. UCAN announced early last year that it is being investigated by the United States Attorney's office. However, according to the news service, Shames claims in the suit that the U.S Attorney's office has not sought contact with him. According to inside sources (not the news service), Shames has threatened to sue board members on several occasions.

According to the news service Shames is represented by Hallen Rosner and Sharon Glassey of a San Diego law firm. The charges, as related by the news service, are similar to a letter that Rosner wrote UCAN board members on November 19, 2012. (This is not mentioned in the news service account.) On his website, Rosner boasts that he studied under Robert Fellmeth. Following graduation, Rosner and Fellmeth formed a consumer protection firm. Fellmeth was the actual founder of UCAN in 1983, shortly naming Shames as its second executive director. Recently, Fellmeth returned to the UCAN board and announced his intention of helping to straighten out the deeply troubled watchdog organization.

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Comments

Don Bauder Jan. 4, 2013 @ 7:51 p.m.

mngcornaglia: Please repeat in English. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 5, 2013 @ 11:14 a.m.

mas juevos grande verdad...

Must have BIG BALLS speak the truth???

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Don Bauder Jan. 5, 2013 @ 3:26 p.m.

SP: Will tiny testicles help one approach verisimilitude? Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Jan. 4, 2013 @ 7:48 p.m.

UCAN should and must counter-sue Sameless for everything under the sun, including theft, misappropriation of assets, fraud, misrepresentation, and whatever the attorneys can think of. And then, of course, UCAN must pursue all the leads and evidence to the max. Uh, does UCAN have the desire to do all that? Does it have the financial resources? Uh, I dunno. This could tie up any resolution of the role of UCAN in the future in the courts for years. I'd guess that is just what Shameless wants. Wonder who is paying his law firm? Maybe some if his friends in the utility industry? Or has he put away enough to finance a long-running legal battle? (He should have saved plenty from all those years of being most well compensated.)

But in the meantime, who will advocate for all of us? By that I mean the ratepayers in the county. If this whole thing goes forward, UCAN will spend all of its resources defending itself, and not advocating for the ratepayers. That will insure that SDGE will have free reign in the marketplace. Hmmm.

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Don Bauder Jan. 4, 2013 @ 8:32 p.m.

Visduh: Obviously, there should be a countersuit. But suppose a majority of the board, or powerful persons or a person on it, really wants the Shames suit to succeed -- indeed, may have been in on the preparation of it? Suppose that person or persons, knowing the suit would never fly in court, wants to use it as a tool to give Shames some kind of a waiver from liability? As to money: UCAN does not have the funds to defend the suit; Shames and any possible co-conspirators know that. Who is paying his law firm? One guess: a rich lawyer who was in on the class action suits that were handled by outside lawyers, instead of inside of UCAN, thus depriving UCAN of well-deserved funds. As to SDGE: it already has free reign; UCAN has not been effective through the years holding down SDGE's extremely high rates. There is lots to chew on here. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Jan. 4, 2013 @ 9:29 p.m.

I think you summed it all up here, and there is really little more to say. We have no organized advocacy to oppose SDGE, and now it appears as if we never did.

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Don Bauder Jan. 5, 2013 @ 8:05 a.m.

Visduh: UCAN and its leadership raked in a lot of money in CPUC intervenor fees. Now the question is: who raked in the money on the class action suits that Shames farmed out to outside attorneys? UCAN staff came up with the information that led to the suits, but UCAN didn't get its part of the settlements. Who got rich on those suits? Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 5, 2013 @ 11:17 a.m.

UCAN should and must counter-sue Sameless for everything under the sun, including theft, misappropriation of assets, fraud, misrepresentation, and whatever the attorneys can think of.

UCAN has no choice now to NOT counter sue. They are required to if they have a claim. If they fail to counter sue at this point they will have been deemed the right to do so in the future-as in waived the right.

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Don Bauder Jan. 5, 2013 @ 3:30 p.m.

SP: Of course, the UCAN board has to approve a countersuit. And the UCAN board has resisted doing anything to clean up its mess. Some UCAN board members may have no desire to seek the truth on these matters -- indeed, may be playing with the other side, with dirty hands. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 4, 2013 @ 8:58 p.m.

SHAMES CLAIMS HE HAS SUFFERED "SHAME, MORTIFICATION AND INJURY TO HIS FEELINGS." I now have a copy of the Shames suit against UCAN. The defendants are UCAN and whistleblower David Peffer. Shames claims that the defendants spread false information about him with "malice, hatred and ill will," leaking information to the press to ruin his reputation. Shames blames former chairman Kendall Squires for many of UCAN's problems. Squires was "acting to protect his own interests," not UCAN's interests, asserts Shames. I could not reach Squires. Nor could I reach Don Kelly, the former student of Robert Fellmeth who was brought in recently to be executive director. David Peffer, one of the defendants, refused to comment.

There are some very interesting statements that Shames makes under oath. For example, a long-running controversy revolved around the fact that he had not been a member of the State Bar for many years. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) said that intervenors don't have to be lawyers. Paul Dostart, whom Shames repeatedly refers to as an "independent lawyer," looked into the matter for UCAN. Shames claims that the alleged independent counsel concluded that the whistleblower complaint was "baseless." But Dostart's report did not say that. He stated that he was "not altogether certain that the [CPUC] ruling accurately states California law." He pointed out that under state law, those who hold themselves out as lawyers are subject to prosecution. Dostart then stated that Shames should call himself an "advocate" or "representative" rather than "attorney" in papers filed with the CPUC. Shames later joined the bar. A couple of months ago, Squires told me that he had ordered Shames to do so. Clearly, the so-called independent investigator did not consider the whistleblower's charge to be "baseless." Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 4, 2013 @ 9:08 p.m.

OOPS: Sentence should read, "He pointed out that under state law, those who wrongly hold themselves out as lawyers are subject to prosecution." I had left out word "wrongly." Shames claimed he did not practice law because he only practiced before the CPUC, even though he listed himself as a lawyer who should receive lawyers' fees in intervenor compensation. But whistleblowers showed that he had filed amicus briefs with appellate courts while he was not in the Bar. That question has still not been adequately addressed, although Shames's defenders say the statute of limitations would have run out in those cases. Best, Don Bauder

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JustWondering Jan. 5, 2013 @ 12:11 a.m.

Shames is merely practicing the famous Rahm Emanuel tactic: "Never let a crisis go to waste" as well as an O'Bama behavior ....blame the other guy, or it's all the other guy's doing... This ridiculous notion of misspelled accounts with large amounts of money or, not paying bar dues and avoiding continuing educational requirements are just some other signs of the arrogance and greed of this man.
While he may have been an ethical person once, those traits disappeared a long, long time ago.

Sadly, as is the case with most white collar criminals, few are ever caught and for those who are, the punishment rarely, if ever, fits the crime.

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Don Bauder Jan. 5, 2013 @ 8:36 a.m.

JustWondering: Interestingly, in his lawsuit, Shames gives his side of several of the controversies, such as the long period in which he did not belong to the State Bar. But he never mentions the misspelled "CoMsumer" accounts that wound up in five different financial institutions. There was a lot of money in those accounts. There are several other pertinent matters that Shames ducks in this lawsuit. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 5, 2013 @ 11:22 a.m.

See, that right there shows how stoopid Shames is. That will ALL come out in his deposition, given on the record under oath. He is also the likely target of the US Attorney's office, who are notoriously SLOW in their investigations. Has Shames been sent a "Target" letter by the US Attorneys Office- anyone know??? All I know is I would NOT want to be in Shames shoes, and would have never filed ANY lawsuit if there were criminal acts committed by Shames. Now, if Shames is innocent, which is very possible, then he is doing the right thing. Too many questions here that only Shames knows the answer to.

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Don Bauder Jan. 5, 2013 @ 3:34 p.m.

SurfPup: In the suit, Shames makes a big deal of the purported fact that he has not been contacted by the U.S. Attorney's office, which has been investigating this for more than a year. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working on behalf of the U.S. Attorney's office, is not likely to contact someone under investigation at this point. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 5, 2013 @ 3:44 p.m.

If they are serious at some point they will send the infamous "Target" letter..then you KNOW you're in big trouble. But bottom line, if it was me and I had anything to hide, I would not be filing lawsuits where I could be cross examined- depositions are done on the record under oath and can be used in criminal proceedings.

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Don Bauder Jan. 5, 2013 @ 4:13 p.m.

SP: You have put your finger on why people suspect that this is not a serious lawsuit. With all that is already known, people can't imagine that Shames would be willing to be cross-examined under oath. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Jan. 5, 2013 @ 10 a.m.

This all might be rendered rather moot if Shameless is indicted, probably by the feds, for corruption, theft, and a host of other crimes. We can wait, we can hope, but I don't know that we can really expect anything like that.

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 5, 2013 @ 11:25 a.m.

This all might be rendered rather moot if Shameless is indicted, probably by the feds, for corruption, theft, and a host of other crimes

Not true at all. Indictments are mere allegations and mean noithing, zero, only convictions carry weight. If the feds cannot convict then his claims can be pursued, after his aquittal or dropping of charges.

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Visduh Jan. 5, 2013 @ 11:51 a.m.

What I meant was that if he's indicted, someone more than the UCAN board will be digging into this scandal, and that there's enough evidence there to file charges. So, I was assuming that an indictment would lead to some sort of conviction, and then the questions would be answered.

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 5, 2013 @ 2:02 p.m.

I was assuming that an indictment would lead to some sort of conviction

People who are innocent don't do deals (if they have any balls), and go to trial. Now, having made that speech- 97% of federal cases end in plea bargains. But not all, and here is a good example of the Feds going postal and out of control to only get spanked at trial with full acquittals on ALL charges against ALL defendants; http://www.insiderexclusive.com/show-content/118-us-vs-fieger-a-johnson-bring-it-on-.html

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Don Bauder Jan. 5, 2013 @ 4:17 p.m.

SP: But people who are innocent do do deals. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 6, 2013 @ noon

True......The ones who are scared, spineless, jellyfish....

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Don Bauder Jan. 5, 2013 @ 4:15 p.m.

SP: An indictment is not the same as a conviction -- true. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 5, 2013 @ 3:36 p.m.

Visduh: The FBI has had one of its top persons on this matter for a year. If the US Attorney is not going to pursue the matter, that's a lot of high-powered investigative resources down the drain. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell Jan. 5, 2013 @ 10:02 a.m.

Shames probably fears that UCAN will sue him to obtain repayment of excess pay and fees some board members claim he took without board authorization. His strategy appears to be intended to create a claim for libel damages to offset UCAN's potential claim for unauthorized pay. He could offer to drop the libel suit if UCAN agrees to drop any claim for excess pay. It could also be that UCAN has untapped insurance that would pay any libel claim and pay for legal representation even though the organization is financially strapped. UCAN directors have liability insurance as well. Claims could be filed against them to obtain insurance company payouts. There's no sense in letting an unused insurance policy go to waste, especially if it's sitting there ripe for the plucking like low hanging fruit.

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Don Bauder Jan. 5, 2013 @ 3:42 p.m.

Burwell: You may well have put your finger on the strategy, and it may have been cooked up inside UCAN's board. You raise a good point on the insurance. To me, the big question is: does Shames really want to take this to court, and be deposed under oath? After all, almost all of the charges made by the whistleblowers have already been shown to be valid. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Jan. 5, 2013 @ 4:34 p.m.

PEFFER GETS LETTER THAT APPEARS TO BE A THREAT. David Peffer, the whistleblower who is named as a defendant in Shames's suit against UCAN, on Friday received the following note from a person who has been high up in UCAN:

"David, talk with Don [Kelly, new executive director] I don't want to alarm you, but the allegations against you may not be covered by insurance and you would have to pay for an attorney on your own. Do you realize the huge possible liability here? The leaks to the press are the problem -- not the charges made to the Board."

For now, I am not naming the person who sent the note, but I can say it is someone that, in my opinion, was not sympathetic to the view that UCAN had to be cleaned up. This note sounds like part of an orchestrated cabal.

Peffer's attorney, Mike Aguirre, says, "These guys [Shames, Rosner et al] are trying to bully a young lawyer and I will take every step under the law to be sure that [Peffer] is completely protected." Peffer is protected by whistleblower laws, among other things, says Aguirre. Also, Peffer is protected because the Shames suit falls into the category of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP), or a lawsuit filed to intimidate or silence critics by burdening them with the cost of defense. People who are so intimidated can file an anti-SLAPP suit. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Jan. 5, 2013 @ 4:58 p.m.

It just keeps getting more interesting and more involved, doesn't it? What will tomorrow bring?

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Don Bauder Jan. 5, 2013 @ 8:06 p.m.

Visduh: Yes, it is fascinating -- particularly, by filing suit, Michael Shames essentially volunteering to be deposed under oath. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 6, 2013 @ 12:09 p.m.

Yes, it is fascinating -- particularly, by filing suit, Michael Shames essentially volunteering to be deposed under oath.

Which leads me to believe he must not have done anything wrong, or, he is the dumbest attorney ever.

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Don Bauder Jan. 6, 2013 @ 1:21 p.m.

SP: Or he has no intention to go ahead with the suit. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 6, 2013 @ 3:43 p.m.

The problem is if UCAN files a cross complaint, he cannot stop that from going forward if they file.

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Don Bauder Jan. 6, 2013 @ 10:10 p.m.

SurfPup: UCAN's board, which appears to be unsympathetic to reform of the organization, may not file a cross-complaint. But Peffer could. Best, Don Bauder

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