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In re Rothman

Supreme Court of New Jersey

February 14, 2018

IN THE MATTER OF ROBERT E. ROTHMAN AN ATTORNEY AT LAW

          Argued: November 16, 2017

         District Docket No. XIV-2012-0210E

          Eugene A. Racz appeared on behalf of the Office of Attorney Ethics.

          Raymond S. Londa appeared on behalf of respondent.

          DECISION

          Bonnie C Frost, Chair

         To the Honorable Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

         This matter was before us on a motion for final discipline filed by the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE), pursuant to R. 1:20-13(c), following respondent's conviction in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (USDC) of one count of violating the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C §1.

         We determine to impose a three-year, retroactive suspension.

         Respondent was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1977 and the New York bar in 1980. He has no prior final discipline in New Jersey.

         Effective May 10, 2012, the Court temporarily suspended respondent as a result of his conviction in this matter, in re Rothman, 210 N.J. 155 (2012). He remains suspended to date.

         Respondent pleaded guilty to an Information charging him with one count of Sherman Act Conspiracy, a violation of 15 U.S.C. §1, which states as follows:

Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal. Every person who shall make any contract or engage in any combination or conspiracy hereby declared to be illegal shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $100, 000, 000 if a corporation, or, if any other person, $1, 000, 000, or by imprisonment not exceeding 10 years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.

         The Information alleged that, through a partnership, respondent purchased tax liens from municipalities located in New Jersey.[1] Various other individuals and entities not named as defendants also participated with respondent as coconspirators in the charged offense, performing acts and making statements in furtherance of a bid-rigging scheme.

         As explained in the Information, when the owner of New Jersey real estate fails to pay property, water, or sewer taxes, the municipality in which the property is located may attach a lien. If the lien remains unpaid, it may then be sold at a tax lien auction. At auction, the value of the lien includes the amount of unpaid property taxes, accrued interest, and other applicable costs and penalties. Bidders at these auctions include individuals, companies, and financial institutions.

         Pursuant to a competitive bidding process, bidders will bid on the interest rate that the property owner will pay if and when the tax lien is redeemed. Bidding begins at the statutory maximum (eighteen percent) and may be driven down in the bidding process to zero. Typically, the winning bidder has the right to collect interest at the winning rate, as well as the original lien amount and penalties. If the taxes, interest, and penalties remain unpaid, the winning bidder may foreclose on the property owner's right of redemption, and take title to the property.

         The Information charged that, from approximately the spring 2000 until February 2009, respondent and the coconspirators engaged in a scheme to suppress and eliminate competition in the bidding process by submitting noncompetitive and collusive bids at public auctions for tax liens in various New Jersey municipalities. Respondent and the coconspirators' combination and ...


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