Lt. Governor Mark Hutchison, who moonlights as an attorney, has a mind like a steel trap. I’ve seen him operate in a number of venues – from the Ethics Commission to the State Legislature to the courtroom.
But when it comes to lots of work his law firm performed for Aspen Financial and its lender/investors during the recession, Hutchison is drawing a blank.
Hutchison is now representing Howard Bulloch, an Aspen borrower who has been in default for almost a decade on a $26 million loan. It’s money put up by hundreds of investors, some of whom lost their savings when Bulloch stopped paying.
To be accurate, Bulloch wasn’t really paying. The payments were wrapped into the loan. What really happened is the recession hit and Guinn was unable to refinance yet another in a series of equity-eroding loans on the property – loans that put millions in “cash out” in Bulloch’s pocket but left lender/investors in the cold.
The collateral for the loan is a parcel of Strip land across from the Mandalay Bay. The Las Vegas Monorail has plans to extend to the area. And a professional football team is moving to the neighborhood. All that activity has Howard Bulloch wanting to sell the land tied up by that defaulted loan.
Jeff Guinn called his old investors and helped Bulloch line up the more than 51 percent he needs under state law to essentially do a short sale to himself. Guinn got paid close to $25.000 to arrange the deals. He admitted on the witness stand today that he doesn’t have the active mortgage broker’s license allowing him to do so. When asked whether he needed to be licensed to arrange the deals, Guinn responded he doesn’t know the law.
A few dozen investors went to court to stop the deal. Now, they stand to get twice as much as the majority who agreed to accept between 25 and 30 cents on the dollar. Judge Elizabeth Gonzales is expected to rule on the fairness of the “modification” for the dissenting investors next week.
Back to Hutchison. After today’s hearing I asked him how he’s not violating attorney conflict rules by representing Bulloch now against the same investors he represented for Aspen. That’s when he claimed no knowledge of his firm’s previous representation. I’ve seen the billing records and asked him to assume I’m right. Would it be a conflict? He refused to say and continued claiming ignorance.
So I asked him a question involving his former capacity as a member of the State Ethics Commission. He declined to answer, adding “I don’t want to help you write a book.”
Then I asked why his client paid Jeff Guinn to perform the duties of a mortgage broker but without the requisite license. He responded he won’t help me write a book about Jeff Guinn.
I get the Good ‘Ole Boy thing. I was born here. But at what point does an elected official have an obligation to the public that trumps his private, professional commitments or standing?
If Mark Hutchison knows of an exception to the rules that allows him to ignore the obvious conflict of representing Bulloch against the investors Hutchison once represented, he should have told me. If Jeff Guinn, who has already had his brokerage closed down by the state, is performing acts for which he has no license, shouldn’t the Lt. Governor care? And if the activity is legal, why not say so?
Because he doesn’t want to help me write a book? That’s big of him.