California Bar Court Suspends Richard Foster’s Law License For One Year

The State Bar Court of California has suspended the law license of Richard Fosteran attorney who lost a years-long legal battle with former professional swimmer Dagny Knutson over his representation of her in 2010. That’s according to documents obtained by the Southern California News Group and published this week in The OC Register.

Foster had already been ordered to pay Knutson $617,800 in damages when the Orange County Superior Court found that he’d committed a breach of fiduciary duty and fraud. The legal battle was winding and complex, with a judge throwing out that verdict before an appeals court reinstated it and the state’s Supreme Court rejected Foster’s final appeal.

Background

The conflict centered around Foster’s relationship with USA Swimming when he represented Knutson and fellow pro swimmer Kate Ziegler in 2010. Knutson was a college-age swimmer who skipped the NCAA arena to turn pro. USA Swimming offered to pay for tuition, room and board and training expenses for Knutson and Ziegler if they moved to the elite training group USA Swimming was trying to build in Southern California. But the USA Swimming official (Mark Schubert) who offered that deal was let go, and USA Swimming then informed the swimmers that it would only cover some of those expenses.

Foster represented Knutson and Ziegler in trying to procure a better deal. But Foster had a long relationship with USA Swimming and its president, Chuck Wielgus. Foster had even represented Schubert legally and had represented USA Swimming in front of FINA, the world’s governing body for swimming. Knutson says the deal he ultimately struck was much worse than the original deal. And the California courts system eventually ruled that Foster had willfully concealed his relationships with USA Swimming and Schubert from Knutson.

You can find more full context on the legal dispute here:

License Suspended

The new OC Register report says the State Bar Court found Foster “culpable” on five of seven charges of misconduct and “ruled that Foster misled and betrayed the trust and confidence of a client… to protect his business and personal relationships with USA Swimming, its executive director Chuck Wielgus, Richard Young, an attorney for the NGB, and other leading figures in the swimming community.”

Foster’s license was suspended for a year, though the Bar Court stayed all but 60 days of that ban. Foster will be on two years probation as well.

Foster told The OC Register that he expected a suspension because of the prior ruling in the civil lawsuit, but still maintains his innocence in his representation of Knutson:

“We expected some kind of suspension just because of the fact that there is a jury verdict against me,” he said in an e-mail, per the Register report. “The State Bar Judge’s decision reflects this. As you know, I believe that the jury verdict was flawed because I negotiated the best athlete contract in USA Swimming’s history and didn’t charge Dagny for it. The only reason she lost the contract is because she didn’t meet the performance markers because of her eating disorder, a fact she didn’t tell me about when I negotiated her contract. I do not believe that I did anything wrong.”

Knutson was represented in this case by Bob Allardwho has represented a number of clients in lawsuits against USA Swimming, many of them relating to athlete abuse. He provided a lengthy statement in the Register story:

“Sadly, as egregious as it has proven to be, this situation is not unique to the swimming community,” Allard says in the Register report. “By no means is this the first time that we have seen a powerful swimming executive manipulate a female athlete for personal gain.  Seemingly countless women have been used as mere pawns to advance a broader agenda within USA Swimming to win medals and make money at all costs, even if the welfare of good and innocent people are sacrificed in the process.

“Whether it’s Ariana Kukors-Smith, Deena Deardurff-Schmidt, Kelley Currin, Dia Rianda, Jancy Thompson, Suzette Moran or Michael Saltzstein, it seems that USA Swimming, at least under the old regime, would not hesitate to throw its members under the bus in order to advance its own selfish interests. We can only hope that USA Swimming’s new leader Tim Hinchey is serious about making radical changes within this great sport because it is desperately in need of a drastic culture change.”

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Swim Fan

Foster’s excuses and claiming that he negotiated a great contract and it was essentially Knutson’s fault ring completely hollow for me – he had extensive undisclosed conflicts of interest – every lawyer knows this, it’s first year of law school stuff, the contract wasn’t fair specifically because of the conflicts. The conflicts prevented full and fair representation of her interests. Period.

Audi

The real question, since Mark told Dagny that USA Swimming will cover your education, living expenses and $ up to $500,000. I know Mark will say he never did offer Dagny that amount, but with 4 people at the table when he did. Now we know that Chuck W and Rich Foster worked to screw Dagny too. When is USA Swimming going to be held accountable?

Snarky

Incomprehensible comment. And nonsense too. Board members questioned how Foster could be negotiating for Dagny and told Rich Young that Foster had a conflict. Foster refused to drop out of the case.

Steve Schaffer

And yet, USA Swimming kept dealing with Foster and negotiated the crappy deal, insisting they could not offer more. Where were these board members to stop what they knew was a conflict of interest? Clearly they did not warn Dagny, nor did they intervene in any other way.

The only reason USA Swimming was not sued was because the statute of limitations had run out on that option. Foster, being an attorney, was subject to a longer period.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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