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. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues