Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Akron Securities Attorney Suspended

The Ohio Supreme Court today suspended an Akron attorney for two years, with six months stayed, for practicing law while suspended and making a false statement on a federal financial registration form.

The Supreme Court unanimously voted to suspend Gigi Hoang Fuhry for violating the rules governing the conduct of Ohio attorneys. The per curiam decision noted that this was her third suspension since 2013 and some of the misconduct leading to the current suspension took place in 2015 while she was under her second suspension.

Fuhry Omits Suspension from Required Form
In November 2013, the Supreme Court suspended Fuhry for failing to register for the 2013-2014 biennium. The Court imposed a second suspension in December 2014 for Fuhry’s failure to complete her required continuing legal education (CLE) and not complying with reporting requirements.

In November 2014, she was hired as staff counsel and director of institutional compliance for ValMark Securities in Akron, where she provided legal advice to the company and drafted contracts and agreements. Her employer required her to be a member in good standing with at least one state bar. At the time she accepted employment, her Ohio law license was under suspension, and she did not appear to be licensed in any other state.

After a month on the job, Fuhry completed an application filed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority that required her to note if her authorization to act as an attorney had ever been revoked or suspended. She falsely indicated she had not been suspended.

Several months later, ValMark’s chief legal counsel, Shelly Goering, noted that she had not received a request from Fuhry for reimbursement of her attorney-registration fees. Goering checked the Supreme Court website and learned Fuhry’s license had been suspended since 2013.

When Goering confronted Fuhry with the information, Fuhry eventually admitted that she knew about her suspension and delayed filling out the securities forms because she knew the form would ask if she had been suspended. ValMark immediately terminated Fuhry’s employment.

After she was fired by ValMark, Fuhry completed all her CLE requirements and was reinstated to practice law in November 2015. However, Fuhry indicated she has not practiced law since her termination.

Charges Filed Against Attorney
The Office of the Disciplinary Counsel initiated an investigation of Fuhry in December 2015, and the disciplinary counsel claimed that Fuhry falsely asserted she was unaware that her license was suspended. In November 2016, the disciplinary counsel filed a complaint with the Board of Professional Conduct charging that Fuhry continued to practice while under suspension, made a false statement on the securities registration form, and made false statement to the disciplinary counsel during the investigation.

A three-member board panel considered a “consent-to-discipline” agreement reached by the parties. Fuhry stipulated that she failed to complete her CLE requirements, and although she did not open mail from the Court, she was aware of her suspension.

Fuhry admitted to violating several rules, including engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; practicing while under suspension; and knowingly making a false statement in connection with a disciplinary matter.

Court Considers Sanction
When imposing a sanction, the Court considers several factors including aggravating circumstances that could enhance a penalty and mitigating factors that could lead to a less-severe punishment.

The parties agreed that four aggravating factors exist. Fuhry had a record of prior discipline, acted with a dishonest or selfish motive, committed multiple offenses, and submitted false statements during the disciplinary investigation.

The parties also acknowledged that Fuhry eventually made full disclosure of her actions, displayed a cooperative attitude during the disciplinary proceedings, and was penalized for her actions by losing her job.

The parties agreed that a two-year suspension, with the final six months stayed was an appropriate sanction, and the Court agreed.

The opinion stated that six months of her suspension will be stayed on the condition that she not engage in further misconduct. If she fails to abide by that condition, she must serve the full two years.

2017-0489. Disciplinary Counsel v. Fuhry, Slip Opinion No. 2017-Ohio-8813.

Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.

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