Wednesday, December 28, 2005

John O'Quinn's comeuppance

While clawing his way to the top echelons of the legal profession, Houston attorney John O'Quinn has had to step on a few toes.

A dozen or so years ago, I sat in a Houston courtroom and watched him take Dow Corning to the cleaners for those life-threatening silicone breast implants that later were determined to be harmless.

Dow Corning is just one of the notches on the gunbelt of this silver-tongued devil.

O'Quinn sits on a big pile of money as a result of his legal acumen.

He gives a lot of it away to have buildings named in his honor and he spends a lot of it on extremely expensive collectible cars, including the once-celebrated "Pope-mobile."

Such success comes at a price, though. Some people end up hatin' you.

So I'll venture that it's safe to say a good chunk of the legal profession, or at least that part that calls itself the corporate defense bar, is having a good chuckle today at the latest issue of Forbes magazine (reg. req.) and its story about how O'Quinn got snookered.

"Sucker for a sob story," the mag said.

The story goes that O'Quinn read a letter in the Houston Chronicle by a distraught mother who asked if there was anyone out there who would give her ex-con son a "second chance."

O'Quinn hired him as an errand boy and before long agreed to let the guy "manage" his growing collection of classic automobiles, whose value reached the $100 million mark. (Thank you, Dow-Corning, et al.)

The employee turned out to have a penchant for heroin and whores. By the time it was all over, O'Quinn "was missing 29 cars he thought he had bought and had overpaid by $3 million for the ones he had," Forbes said.

O'Quinn, to his credit, was willing to face the music when Forbes came calling, but you have to chuckle at the story's coda, which has him saying, "It's like what Ronald Reagan said about dealing with the Soviets ... ‘Trust, but verify.'"

O'Quinn, of course, is a Democrat.

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