Lampoon: Durham used $1M from company to pay attorney

J.K. Wall
March 4, 2013
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A film company once headed by Indianapolis financier Tim Durham says he transferred $1 million to his Indianapolis lawyer, John Tompkins, while fighting federal securities fraud charges.

Durham, the former CEO of National Lampoon, was sentenced in November to 50 years in federal prison on securities fraud and other crimes related to the collapse of Akron, Ohio-based Fair Finance Co.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in a state court in Los Angeles, where National Lampoon is headquartered, follows a similar allegation made in January by the bankruptcy trustee for Fair Finance.

National Lampoon has also sued Indianapolis attorney John Tompkins, who represented Durham unsuccessfully in the Fair Finance case, and unknown individuals it says helped make the wire transfer possible.

National Lampoon claims that one week after agreeing to a settlement with Warner Bros. over the distribution of the National Lampoon’s "Vacation" series of  movies — a deal that paid National Lampoon $2.7 million — Durham transferred $1 million of that money into the bank account of Tompkins’ Indianapolis law firm, Brown Tompkins Lory & Mastrian.

The lawsuit also claims that Tompkins was listed as the beneficiary of that transfer, which allegedly occurred on July 28, 2011. Durham covered his tracks, the lawsuit alleges, with "false, fraudulent and deceptive entries in the business records of National Lampoon." The company claims it did not discover the $1 million transfer until April 2012.

Durham resigned as CEO of National Lampoon in January 2012 after leading the company for three years.

A call to Tompkins Monday morning was not immediately returned. In January, when Fair Finance trustree Brian Bash claimed that National Lampoon had financed Durham’s defense, Tompkins gave a brief statement to IBJ.

"I don’t think it’s accurate that Lampoon funded his defense,” he said on Jan. 23. “Beyond that, I don’t have anything to say."

Tompkins is no longer representing Durham. Instead, James H. Mutchnik, a white-collar criminal defense attorney at Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis, has agreed to represent Durham for free during an appeal of his conviction.

Bash has claimed in a lawsuit against National Lampoon that Durham propped up the company by transferring $9 million, over the course of a decade, from investors’ holdings at Fair Finance.

A federal jury in June found Durham guilty on all 12 counts stemming from the collapse of Fair. Prosecutors charged that Durham looted the company to fund a lavish lifestyle and support other failing businesses he owned.

Fair co-owner Jim Cochran, who was convicted on eight of 12 counts, received a 25-year sentence, and Rick Snow, the chief financial officer, received 10 years.

Money for the scheme came from 5,000 Ohio investors who purchased unsecured notes from Fair boasting interest rates as high as 9 percent.

Bash has been trying to recover money for the investors for nearly three years, but so far has been unable to make a distribution.

Bash sued Fair for more than $150 million and wrested a proposed $3.55 million settlement from former owner Donald Fair.

All of IBJ's coverage of Tim Durham and Fair Finance can be found here.


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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.