Fraud and Civil Racketeering

Milwaukee Fraud and Civil Racketeering Lawyer

Fraud and civil racketeering claims may be included in Wisconsin business disputes. The consequences of these actions can be costly and inflict heavy damage on an individual or company’s business interests. That’s why it’s important to seek the legal advice and representation of an experienced Wisconsin fraud and civil racketeering lawyer.

Attorney Robert Corris has more than 25 years of experience in representing both plaintiffs and defendants in fraud and civil RICO actions. With his legal skill and in-depth knowledge of state and federal laws surrounding these issues, he has helped numerous clients to either obtain the relief they were seeking or defend against wrongfully alleged claims.

To learn more about how he can assist you, call the Corris Law Office today at (414) 272-8000, send us a fax (414) 755-7050 or an e-mail (rcorris@corrislaw.com), or use our convenient contact form. We represent business law clients throughout Southeastern Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, Hartland, Waukesha and surrounding areas. We pledge prompt and personal attention to your case and look forward to working with you to find a solution to your fraud and civil racketeering issues.

Wisconsin Business Fraud Lawyer

Wisconsin recognizes three species of fraud: Intentional deceit, strict responsibility, and negligent misrepresentation. The bases of responsibility in these three types of fraud have three elements in common:

  • The representation must be of a fact and made by the defendant;
  • The representation of fact must be untrue; and
  • The plaintiff must believe such representation to be true and rely on it to his detriment.

In cases involving intentional deceit, the defendant must either know the representation is untrue or make the representation recklessly without caring whether it was true or false and with intent to deceive and induce the plaintiff to act upon it to the plaintiff's pecuniary damage.

In strict responsibility cases, the misrepresentation must be made on the defendant's personal knowledge or under circumstances in which he necessarily ought to have known the truth or untruth of the statement, and the defendant must have an economic interest in the transaction.

Intent to deceive and a good-faith belief in the truth of the representation are immaterial. The speaker is supposed to possess complete knowledge of the facts or could normally be expected to know them without investigation. A person is therefore justified in expecting infallibility as to the representations of fact.

In negligent misrepresentation cases, the defendant need only fail to exercise ordinary care in making a misrepresentation or in ascertaining the facts. But, like other cases of negligence, it requires showing that the defendant owed a duty of care or voluntarily assumed a duty.

One issue that may arise in a business fraud case is whether “fraud” exists where a person promises to do something in the future and then breaks that promise. To amount to a fraud, the representation must relate to present or pre-existing facts and cannot ordinarily be predicated on unfulfilled promises or statements made as to future events.

However, one exception to this rule is that when a promise is made upon which the person has a right to rely, and at the time of making them the person making the promise has a present intent not to perform them, the future promise would constitute a fraudulent representation of fact, and liability would result.

Another question that arises is whether tort damages for fraudulent inducement are prohibited by the “economic loss doctrine.” This doctrine has been described as “a judicially-created remedies principle that operates generally to preclude contracting parties from pursuing tort recovery for purely economic or commercial losses associated with the contract relationship.”

One general premise underlying the economic loss doctrine is that contract law is better suited to deal with purely economic loss in the commercial arena than tort law.

In 2003, the Wisconsin Supreme Court recognized a “fraud in the inducement” exception to the economic loss doctrine but was not able to reach a majority decision on the scope of that exception. The Court addressed tort claims grounded in the theory of intentional misrepresentation, or “fraud in the inducement,” and reasoned that “fraud in the inducement” presents a special situation where parties to a contract appear to negotiate freely – which normally would constitute grounds for invoking the economic loss doctrine – but where in fact the ability of one party to negotiate fair terms and make an informed decision is undermined by the other party's fraudulent behavior. The Court has since declined to create an exception to the economic loss doctrine for strict responsibility.

Wisconsin Civil Racketeering (Civil RICO) Lawyer

One of the government’s most effective weapons against organized crime is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which is commonly called the “RICO Act.” Since it would have been unconstitutional to make it a crime to be a member of an organization, the drafters of the RICO Act identified the types of activities that members of organized crime typically engage in (“racketeering activity” or “predicate act”) and made it illegal to engage in certain conduct through a pattern of racketeering activity.

The RICO Act includes a civil remedy that allows a person injured in his business or property by a violation of the Act to recover triple damages and reasonable actual attorneys’ fees.

A tension exists between the utility of the RICO Act as a tool of law enforcement and the use by civil parties to convert so-called “garden variety” fraud actions into RICO actions. One section of the RICO Act – section 1962(c) – makes it a violation to conduct or participate in the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity. Mail and wire fraud are each a predicate act, and many civil lawyers have filed long, fact-filled complaints, quoting the language of the statute but not understanding the requirements for stating a violation. The courts have responded by imposing sanctions against the attorneys and the clients.

Attorney Robert Corris has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in civil RICO actions. He knows about the requirements the courts have grafted onto the statute, including but not limited to:

  • The continuity and relatedness requirements of a pattern of racketeering activity;
  • The section 1962(c) requirement that a culpable person be separate and apart from the enterprise;
  • The meaning of to “conduct or participate” in the affairs of an enterprise;
  • The ‘investment injury” requirement under subsection 1962(a); and
  • The factual and proximate causation requirements of a RICO Act claim.

The Corris Law Office also has represented plaintiffs and defendants in actions brought under the state RICO act, known as the Wisconsin Organized Crime Control Act, or “WOCCA.” He knows about the similarities and differences between a RICO claim and a WOCCA claim.

Contact the Corris Law Office Today

Attorney Robert Corris is an experienced business litigator as well as a speaker and author on a variety of business law topics, including Wisconsin business fraud and civil racketeering actions. He is ready to discuss solutions to your legal problems today.

The Corris Law Office serves business law clients, including individuals, dealing with fraud and civil racketeering cases throughout Southeastern Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, Hartland, Waukesha and surrounding areas. To learn more, call us at (414) 272-8000, send us a fax (414) 755-7050 or an e-mail (rcorris@corrislaw.com), or use our convenient contact form. We pledge prompt and personal attention to your fraud and RICO Act issues and look forward to working with you.