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Indiana bankruptcy lawyer Brent Welke had a simple dream: to help his clients screw the banks, which his ads declared he'd been doing "since 1992."
But if one thing is true with American capitalism, it's that you don't screw the banks. The banks screw you. Welke was suspended in January for misleading advertising.
You Just Might Get to Screw the Banks
We kid -- a bit. It's not always impossible to screw a bank and Welke wasn't suspended for promising something that could never be done. Instead, the attorney was given a 30-day suspension by the Indiana Supreme Court for violating Indiana Professional Conduct Rule 7.1. That's the one prohibiting:
false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer's services, including a communication that contains a material misrepresentation of fact or law or omits a fact necessary to make the statement considered as a whole not materially misleading.
Welke, it seems, had overpromised. His discipline was based on a 2002 Indiana Supreme Court decision which found that the statement "Bankruptcy, but keep house and car" was deceptive advertising, since attorneys could only promise the possibility of keeping one's house and car in bankruptcy. Similarly, screwing over the banks isn't something that can be promised absolutely.
As part of his suspension, Welke agreed to remove the "screwing the banks" language from his website and Yellow Pages ads. Statements like "keep your property," and "stop home foreclosure" were also removed. Welke's firm website now simply states, "We love to take a bite out of a banker!"
What, Lawyers Can't Screw People Over Now?
In his discipline proceedings, Welke had agreed that his statements violated ethics rules, but he questions his suspension. "The ad is not in poor taste and is certainly honest," he said in an interview with the ABA Journal.
In fact, according to Welke, "screwing banks" isn't some dirty sexual reference either. That's because, as the ABA Journal explains, "you can't have sex with a bank." (We appreciate the clarification.) Instead, screwing the banks is a reference to the thumbscrews used in debtor's prisons -- a perfectly appropriate topic of bankruptcy ads.
"They're going to have to suspend every bankruptcy attorney in the state, because everybody's got the same ad," Welke said.