Bar lowers the boom on Matthew Samwick
Thursday, May 08, 2008 Steve Duin, writer, Oregonian

The wheels of justice may turn far too slowly, but the Oregon State Bar has finally reeled in Lake Oswego attorney Matthew Samwick.

Almost eight years after the initial bar complaint against him, Samwick has resigned, effective May 26. Facing a complaint that alleges impressive combinations of what the bar deems dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation, Samwick elected not to contest the charges and submitted his resignation to the bar's disciplinary board.

"A Form B resignation is the functional equivalent of being disbarred," said Kateri Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bar. "It means you resigned while facing disciplinary charges and you may never apply for reinstatement."

Samwick, 41, insists the bar has it all wrong. "This is the story of a business that didn't succeed," he said Wednesday. "I lost as much as anyone. But the idea that I stole clients' money is patently false."

After departing the Lindsay Hart law firm in 1995, Samwick formed or immersed himself in a series of business enterprises, including Cascade Venture Partners, the RMJJ Company, Skylink Telecommunications and Northwest Communications.

To keep those companies afloat, bar counsel Martha Hicks argues in court papers, Samwick produced false financial statements, drew on clients' lines of credit without their knowledge or consent, and engaged in a "massive check-kiting scheme."

"Whether he was merely naively unrealistic about Northwest's chances or was attempting to line his own pockets," Hicks concluded, "the Accused still manipulated and deceived his clients, his friends, his relatives, his business partners, and his bankers, causing them massive financial losses."

And at least one of his victims regrets it took the bar so long to nail down the case against him.

"I can't believe the Oregon State Bar takes eight years to discipline an attorney who stole his clients' funds," said Tim Treible, a physician at the East Portland Orthopedic and Fracture Clinic.

The original complaint was filed against Samwick by his former Lake Oswego law partner, George Guyer, in August 2000. Fifty-one months later, the State Professional Responsibility Board authorized formal prosecution. The original trial began in November 2006, but Samwick successfully secured four setovers, delaying the continuation of the disciplinary trial for another 15 months.

Hicks, Walsh said, worked full time for more than a year on the case, analyzing Samwick's financial moves and fiduciary responsibility. In her 65-page trial memorandum, Hicks notes the relationships between Samwick's business entities are "positively labyrinthine, so much so that even years of investigation, lawsuits, and the Accused's personal bankruptcy have not yielded a clear path to explain the Accused's actions."

"I don't think the bar fully understands all the events," Samwick said. "I tried to save a company. Other than those three to six months when that company was failing, I have humbly practiced law for the good of the community since 1991."

Oregon State bar investigators are unconvinced. In the amended complaint -- which Samwick's attorney, Wayne Mackeson, said Samwick does not contest -- they detail a vast array of conflicts of interest and violations of professional conduct.

As to whether Samwick has been "sufficiently chastised," Hicks writes: "Quite to the contrary: he blames all the people who trusted him and would have the trial panel believe that he was the victim of crooks and liars who are now seeking to hold him responsible for their own misconduct."

Steve Duin: 503-221-8597; 1320 S.W. Broadway, Portland, OR 97201