Largest Data Theft in History
In 2000, Cliff Mortensen contacted Bruce MacLeod of Hennigan, Bennett and Dorman (now McKool, Hennigan, Smith) in Los Angeles, CA to represent him in a wire fraud and data theft lawsuit against Trans Union LLC of Chicago, IL and Acxiom Corporation(ACXM) of Little Rock, AR. Both companies had been secretly stealing billions of dollars worth of data from Mortensen and many other independent Trans Union franchisees across the country for at least ten years. They called it data mining; Cliff Mortensens lawyers called it theft. It is the largest data theft and wire fraud crime in United States history. Trans Union during this period was controlled by attorneys Penny Pritzker and Robert Pritzker (d.) of Chicago, IL. Trans Unions address is 555 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL 60661. The case number was 00 C 3885 Northern District of Illinois, Judge John Moran (d.). This was a pre-emptory filing by Trans Union for venue choice and position. Mortensen was a defendant and a counter plaintiff.
The data hijacking occurred at Trans Union facilities in Chicago during routine daily database maintenance and batch processing in terabyte quantities at nanosecond speeds. Acxiom managed data files on the Trans Union Cronus Database at this and other Trans Union locations. Acxiom was granted free access to hundreds of millions of data files many of which were not the property of Trans Union. These files were the information root of millions of target marketing lists. Acxiom paid Trans Union for this stolen data with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of stock warrants (ACXM). Trans Union did not redistribute this revenue with the lawful owners of this data, the independent bureau owners across the United States. It appears that Trans Unions management believed that if the data theft and wire fraud were conducted on IBM supercomputers at speeds faster than the eye could see, it wasnt really theft. Data theft leaves no evidentiary footprint no matter how often the data is copied or illegally accessed (stolen) and Trans Union knew it. It was the perfect burglary.
The major national banks (including the United States government) which unknowingly purchased the stolen data from Trans Union and Acxiom Corporation were Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, Wells-Fargo, HSBC, Capital One, Bank One, American Express, U. S. Bank, Discover Card and most banks which issued credit cards including First National Bank of Omaha. ( FNBO received a $23,000,000.00 award against Trans Union for data theft during breach of contract in 1997 case number 8:95CV-57 United States District Court District of Nebraska). Trans Union has a bountiful history of data theft. The data theft was discovered during a sting operation. Trans Union and Acxiom Corporation shared the ill gotten proceeds without paying the rightful owners of the data, the hundred or so local Trans Union franchisees across the United States including the bureau owned by Cliff Mortensen. This wire fraud, conversion and data theft continued for at least ten years before Trans Union admitted to it during settlement of the federal case.
Penny Sue Pritzker is part of the Pritzker family of Chicago (Hyatt Hotels, Trans Union and Marmon Group). She was the finance chair for President Obama in 2008 and was considered for Commerce Secretary. In 2002 Penny Pritzker was a defendant in a RICO lawsuit filed against her in the Superior Bank (Chicago) collapse. Mortensen asked Bruce MacLeod to file a RICO action against the Pritzkers for wire fraud and extortion. He refused on several occasions.
Mr. MacLeod was referred to Mortensen by his attorney Ralph Wegis, a pioneer in SLAPP lawsuits, of Bakersfield, CA. Mr. MacLeod evaluated the case for twelve months before he decided to accept it. This was a major delay that benefitted Trans Union and Acxiom. Mr. MacLeod had a prior working relationship with opposing counsel, DLA Piper of Chicago. Both firms worked together successfully on the 1994 bankruptcy of Orange County, CA and later without Mortensens knowledge worked together on the international Parmalat (Italy) bankruptcy case. They both have represented the Catholic Church in the United States. Michael Hennigan and Bruce MacLeod had friends at DLA Piper. Mortensen was not informed of this ongoing conflicted dual working relationship until August 15, 2012. Mortensen would have never permitted it and would have terminated Bruce MacLeod and Hennigan, Bennett and Dorman had he known.
Initially, Michael ONeil of DLA Piper sued Cliff Mortensen in a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) lawsuit to quell his impending lawsuit for data theft, fraud and breach of contract. The $1,000,000.00 cost to defend this suit was paid for by Cliff Mortensens insurance carrier, State Farm. Cliff Mortensen was represented by Steve Baron of Mandell Menkes of Chicago. It settled for $17,000.00. There was no SLAPP Back or malicious prosecution lawsuit filed on his behalf.
On the first discovery trip to Chicago, the home of Trans Union, MacLeod mentioned that if Cliff Mortensens case were only worth $4,000,000.00 his firm would not be interested in representing Mortensen. He then excused himself for a lunch meeting with his old pals at DLA.
There was no written legal contract with Bruce MacLeod and Mortensen until settlement which was seven years later. There was a written contract with Mr. Wegis which was properly executed. MacLeod was the lead attorney working without a contract.
Bruce MacLeod and Ralph Wegis allowed the case to be filed under seal with a protective order. Mortensen told Bruce Mac Leod on several occasions that he did not approve of this secrecy, yet Bruce Mac Leod insisted on secrecy. This order only protected Trans Union, Acxiom and the Pritzker family and Wall Street investors from public exposure of their data theft and wire fraud crimes. Bruce MacLeod was asked on at least fifteen occasions to remove the case from protective order and to unseal the filings. He always refused and would become very irritated whenever the subject was broached. This secrecy accommodated his friends wishes at DLA while ingratiating himself with them for amicable working relationships. Secrecy weakened the case and settlement position for seven years. It fortified Trans Unions and Acxioms position.
Time is the enemy of justice.
Public exposure of their crimes terrified Trans Union and Acxiom, a publicly traded company. The secrecy and delays benefitted Trans Union and Acxiom by keeping the other franchised credit bureaus and investors uninformed about the data theft and fraud which would have resulted in more lawsuits and significant financial loss for Trans Union and Acxiom with subsequent erosion of investors value in securities. Bruce MacLeod was accommodating Trans Union and Acxiom to Mortensens peril. Mortensens lawyers by their secret filings aided Trans Union and Acxiom Corporation in the theft cover up and fraud.
After an error filled initial filing, Bruce MacLeod finally did some great work analyzing and stating Mortensens claims of wire fraud, breach of contract and data theft in a first amended complaint. He found that Trans Union and Acxiom had stolen billions of dollars worth of data from individual Trans Union credit bureau franchisees across the United States and over $100,000,000.00 from Mortensen. Mr. Roger Longtin of DLA Piper told one of the court reporters that Bruce MacLeod had cracked the case but he (Longtin) would deny it if queried.
MacLeod demanded to see the personal computer hard drives of Mortensen, his son and their businesses plus all of Mortensens personal tax and corporate tax filings. Mortensen asked him for reciprocity from the Pritzkers , Trans Union and Acxiom. He refused.
Bruce MacLeod allowed Trans Union/Acxiom to take Mortensens personal deposition on ten different occasions. He never deposed Robert Pritzker or Penny Pritzker, the de facto owners of Trans Union.
Mortensen asked him to enjoin his competitor, Experian, from accessing his database as they had done to Mortensen. Access to all three databases was necessary to survive in the credit reporting business. He refused as it would be too much work. There was a conspiracy between Trans Union and Experian to destroy Mortensens businesses. They succeeded.
During this access denial period David Emery, Chief Financial Officer of Trans Union at that time, said to Mortensen Are you ready to talk about signing the contract amendment now? David Emery was clearly committing extortion. Signing the amendment would have allowed Trans Union and Acxiom Corporation to continue their data theft. Mortensen refused.
Trans Union and Acxiom are organizations which have used extortion, theft, wire fraud and perjury to achieve their profit goals by stealing billions of credit records from individual credit bureaus. This is the largest data theft and wire fraud in history.
Mr. Hennigan belittled the value of the case on many occasions. He stated it was only worth $400,000.00. Mr. MacLeod did not have an explanation why one of the Pritzker companies, Conwood Smokeless Tobacco, prevailed in a similar lawsuit against United States Tobacco for 3 billion dollars including punitive damages (Upheld). Conwood was an anti-trust case as was Mortensens but MacLeod refused to include an anti-trust pleading in his case. In 2005, John Blenke, chief counsel at Trans Union offered Mortensen $7,000,000.00 to settle with secrecy. Mortensen rejected that offer.
Since Mortensens case was under seal Trans Union and Acxiom had no motivation to true up and settle for their data theft and fraud. They did not admit to their theft and fraud until seven years later at settlement. Then they wanted a secret settlement. Bruce MacLeod and Michael Hennigan were always willing to oblige DLA Pipers secrecy wishes. Bruce MacLeod never notified Mortensen of this ongoing close working relationship that he had with DLA Piper regarding the Parmalat litigation and The CatholicArchdiocese of Los Angeles sex abuse litigation.
The case was progressing very slowly through the courts. Mortensen had large financial obligations and he informed Bruce of his dire financial condition. Yet MacLeod still kept the case progression slow and under seal. He suggested that Mortensen borrow $200,000.00 from Ralph Wegis to help his financial position. That money only lasted six months. He suggested that Mortensen allow all of his real estate investments to go into foreclosure. He was insolvent by 2007 and forced into a weak settlement position. On settlement day Mortensen was in debt approximately $5,000,000.00 and had liquidated about $3,000,000.00 of his personal assets. Bruce had copies of his tax returns. MacLeod has extensive accounting expertise. He understood Mortensens untenable financial and emotional position. Bruce MacLeods actions had broken Mortensen and set him up for minimal settlement.
Incredibly, prior to settlement, Mr. MacLeod suggested the he become employed by opposing counsel, DLA Piper, to facilitate settlement. His theory was that it would entice Trans Union to settle as he would then be barred from accepting any new cases regarding Trans Union or Acxiom. He told Mortensen he did not want to go against Trans Union or Acxiom again. He stated that it would be illegal for him to decline other similar cases unless he was employed by opposing counsel. Mortensen was flabbergasted! He believed Bruce MacLeod was breaking the law. He could not believe what Bruce MacLeod was saying. He told him absolutely not! Mortensen felt this would be malpractice and certainly not in his best interest. He no longer had any trust in Mr. MacLeod or his law firm. He began to believe that the fraternal relationship with DLA Piper was even more fraternal than suspected. On August 15, 2012, Mortensen discovered that both firms had been working together on the Parmalat (Italy) case and Catholic Church litigation for years. Had Mortensen known this he would have terminated Hennigan, Bennett and Dorman post haste.
Mortensen was forced into a weak settlement position particularly when Bruce said Dont start believing your own bullshit! Still, there were no trial ready motions or at issue memoranda filed on Mortensens behalf. MacLeod never demanded a true up of what was owed to Mortensen. The delays accommodating Trans Union and Acxiom Corporation continued. The case was not positioned for serious settlement negotiations. Cliff Mortensen was financially broke and emotionally broken and unable to continue with the stalled litigation.
Cliff Mortensens stolen data was valued in excess of $100,000,000.00 (per contract breach) by forensic accountant and appraiser Monica Ip of HemmingMorse, San Francisco, CA. There were at least one hundred other Trans Union franchised bureaus in similar situations.
At the suggestion of Michael Hennigan, mediation took place at the law offices of Anthony Piazza of Gregorio, Haldeman and Piazza in San Francisco. This was the first time Mortensen had ever met Michael Hennigan. During mediation Cliff Mortensen stated to his lawyers that he wanted Trans Union to offer a settlement figure before he did. They all said no that Mortensen would have to come up with a figure first. Mortensen felt this would be bidding against himself and not good strategy. His lawyers gave no guidance in developing a settlement strategy or case value during or prior to mediation. Mr. Wegis said Mortensen had fought the good fight but it was time to settle. Mortensens lawyers were as silent as the opposition attorneys during the Anthony Piazza meeting. Cliff Mortensen felt he had been railroaded.
Eventually, Cliff Mortensen proposed a settlement of $15,000,000.00. Anthony Piazza said No he would not present the offer to the opposition. This violated the negotiation protocol. Anthony Piazza said it was too high but he did not say on what he based his conclusion. He just pulled a number out of the air. Attorney Anthony Piazza was supposed to be a neutral mediator. His bias and lack of neutrality cost Mortensen a fortune. He then beat Mortensen down to $10,000,000.00. Mortensens lawyers were silent and did not advocate his position at all.
The case settled on October 31, 2007 for $11,000,000.00. The settlement called for forgiveness of all transgressions known or unknown and global settlement with a non-disclosure clause. Mortensen received $6,000,000.00 and his lawyers received $5,000,000.00. From Mortensens proceeds he repaid Mr. Wegis the $200,000.00 loan from his retirement fund plus interest. He also paid Wood & Porter Attorneys (referred by Bruce MacLeod) $125,000.00 for tax advice since Michael Hennigan said during the mediation that his firm did not dispense tax advice. Bruce MacLeod cautioned Cliff Mortensen to be very conservative with any settlement money as it may be needed it to pay federal taxes. Bruce MacLeod knew it was a net zero settlement.
Nowhere has this settlement been publicly acknowledged in required 8-K, 10-K and S-1filings or elsewhere. This violated Security and Exchange Rules and kept the investors uninformed of this data theft litigation. John Blenke, chief counsel for Trans Union, initially offered Cliff Mortensen $7,000,000.00 in 2005 to settle secretly. This is not public information. His signature is on the 8-K, 10-K and S-1 filings for Trans Union. Acxiom Corporation had similar filing requirements.
Trans Union and its subsidiary, Trans Union Healthcare, have used their data processing and consumer credit expertise and records to benefit from the implementation of the management of Obamacare, the affordable health care initiative put forth by Barack Obama. You will recall that Penny Pritzker (Trans Union) was Obamas finance chair in 2008. Mission accomplished, Barack! Getting the healthcare initiative was his number one priority.
The day Cliff Mortensen settled for $6,000,000.00 net, he was bankrupt by three million dollars and Bruce MacLeod knew it. He, Ralph Wegis and Michael Hennigan settled Cliff Mortensen into bankruptcy. This was not Mortensens plan for successful prosecution of the case. Cliff Mortensen subsequently defaulted on seventeen real estate loans totaling millions of dollars. He felt he had to settle as his lawyers had no plans to take the case to trial and the opposition knew it.
Two weeks after the mediation and prior to final settlement Cliff Mortensen asked Bruce MacLeod if the mediation was binding. Mortensen wanted to cancel it. Bruce MacLeod stated that the mediation was indeed binding and could not be cancelled. This was not true. Cliff Mortensen relied on Bruce MacLeods false statement.
There was a confidentiality agreement on the settlement with a $500,000.00 penalty clause if Cliff Mortensen breached it. DLA Piper demanded that Mortensen destroy all personal court records, documents and digital records of the legal proceedings. He did not. Bruce MacLeod maintained all of his legal records on his computer. He has a digital record today. Two years after settlement Ralph Wegis returned to Cliff Mortensen all legal documents in his possession. Bruce MacLeod refused to do the same when requested. He destroyed them against Cliff Mortensens wishes.
Mr. Wegis had pressing financial concerns as he owed the California Franchise Tax Board over $250,000.00. FTB file number 067966 dated March 17, 2010.
In April of 2011, Cliff Mortensen posted the details of the case on Yahoo! Finance. Within 72 hours he received a disturbing telephone call from an irate Bruce MacLeod threatening Mortensen with legal repercussions from DLA Piper and demanded that he take down the offensive posting immediately. Mortensen informed him that he would not. Oddly, he stated that he did not and could not represent Mortensen any longer and he had attorney Andrew Swartz of Spiering, Swartz and Kennedy of Monterey call him. Mr. Swartz stated that Bruce MacLeod requested that he call as Mortensen was in need of representation. Mr. Swartz was clueless about the call. Mortensen thanked him for his concern and told him he had no legal issues presently.
The next day Mortensen received another disturbing call from equally irate opposing counsel, Michael ONeil of DLA Piper. He threatened to sue Mortensen for $500,000.00 and to enjoin him from breaching the confidentiality agreement. He demanded that Mortensen take down the Yahoo! Finance posting. Mortensen informed Mr. ONeil that he had every legal right to discuss any crimes committed against him at anytime and anywhere he chose. ONeil queried Why now? He followed up his request in email format at Mortensens request. Trans Union was in the process of an Initial Public Offering and this theft and fraud case settlement was an issue of concern at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
On July 5, 2011, Ernst and Young filed a Consent form S-1 for Trans Unions Initial Public Offering. John Blenkes name was listed on that filing as EVP and Corporate Counsel for Trans Union. The IPO was withdrawn February 17, 2012.
In 2010, Trans Union was sold to a partnership of Madison Dearborn Partners, LLC, and in 2012 sold again to Goldman Sachs GS Capital Partners and Advent International in early 2012.
Bobby Mehta, Trans Unions president has stepped down as well as Oscar Marquis, David Emery, Harry Gambill and Bill Rogers. Charles Morgan, former CEO of Acxiom Corporation, has also been replaced as well as much of upper management. Cliff Mortensen has never heard from DLA Piper or Bruce MacLeod again.
Messrs. MacLeod and Hennigan placed their own professional relationships with DLA Piper above Mortensens interests. They deliberately stalled and cloaked the case in secrecy to Mortensens detriment and to Trans Unions and Acxioms benefit while they were working together on the huge international Parmalat and Roman Catholic Church cases with DLA Piper.
Their actions caused Mortensen and his family great financial and psychological damage.
The damage to Mortensens credit is ongoing. Yet Trans Unions credit rating is unblemished after defrauding over one hundred Trans Union credit bureau franchisees billions of dollars. Their actions depleted Mortensens substantial net worth.
Mortensen is seeking financial remedies as well. The conduct of Mortensens lawyers as Officers of The Court in California and Federal Court is despicable, self-serving , duplicitous, unethical and illegal.
Mortensen is seeking a grand jury investigation of their actions.
Mortensens civil rights were violated.
Messrs. MacLeod and Hennigan can be reached presently at The Law Firm of McKool Smith and Hennigan, 865 Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90017, 213.694.1200. They are partners there. Mr. Hennigan can also be reached also at Quail H Farms, 5301 Robin Avenue, Livingston, CA 95334, (209).394.8001
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