Big Time Lawyer 'Lost All Reason,' Spent $1 Million On Affair, And Charged It To Firm
A work trip from London to Los Angeles doesn't usually cost $65,000. But it does if you're padding your travel expenses in order to lavish gifts on your Lebanese mistress.
On Wednesday, respected London attorney Christopher Grierson plead guilty to fraud -- for spending over $1 million on his lover over the course of their 18-month affair and charging it to the prestigious international law firm Hogan Lovells, where he was a senior partner. Grierson will now spend three years in prison, reports Britain's Daily Mail newspaper.
According to news reports, Grierson allegedly fell off the deep end and into the affair after working up to 3,500 hours a year (67 hours a week, every week). He suffered from heart disease, and reportedly had been treated by the firm's doctor for depression and bipolar disorder since 2005.
In January 2006, he found comfort in the arms of a Lebanese paramour living in New York. He repaid her by footing her rent and "other aspects of her expenditures," as well as handing her 280,000 pounds ($435,000) in cash, according to his lawyer, Mark Ellison.
"This behavior was truly bizarre and an indicator of the extent to which he had become derailed," Ellison told the court, according to another British paper, The Telegraph. "This woman gave an impression of admiring him a little and of lifting his spirits. He must have lost all reason because he knew deep down that everything about this relationship was false."
'A Means Of Escape'
Before finding a mistress in New York, Grierson apparently had a history of finding comfort in other women's arms; according to Ellison, he'd hired numerous escorts, "as a means of escape and a source of some sort of affection."
Eventually, Grierson's wife found out about the affair, and brought it to halt, leaving Grierson suddenly panicky about his fragile financial situation. He doubled his 900,000-pound mortgage and maxed out his credit cards, The Telegraph reports, but when that didn't cut it, he decided to try fraud.
Conveniently for him, Grierson was in charge of approving his own travel expenses because he was a "trusted partner," said David Levy, the attorney for the prosecution. Grierson reportedly made 57 false claims on travel documents between January 2008 and May 2011, which added up to almost $2 million.
A fellow partner noticed something was strange only when he saw that Grierson had listed the cost of a trip between London and L.A. at double the annual disposable income of an average British family.
Grierson was out sick from work at the time, and the 60-year-old gave notice that he would retire as partner. "He realized the game was up and inquiries had been made into his financial activities," Levy said. Hogan Lovells fired Grierson in May 2011.
Thanks to "a loan from a client," Grierson has now repaid all the stolen money, the Daily Mail reports. His two homes, in London and France, allegedly have "large mortgages."
"It was well planned, it was sophisticated -- you created false travel documents -- and you obtained substantial sums of money. It was a serious breach of trust," Judge John Price told Grierson. "But it is right to say that you have suffered from mental illness. It is a result of that mental illness that in part you behaved the way in which you did."
Others Who Paid The Price Of Affection -- With Company Funds
Of course, Grierson is hardly the first man to be induced into creative accounting to cover extracurricular activities. One of the most recent high-profile cases was that of Mark Hurd, who was forced to step down as CEO of Hewlett-Packard in 2010, after the board determined that Hurd submitted "inaccurate expense reports." HP had been billed for his personal evenings with a female companion -- an "adult" movie actress and reality TV star whom HP supposedly hired as a hostess at company events.
And a jury has been deliberating for more than a week over whether former Sen. John Edwards spent $1 million in campaign funds to conceal his pregnant mistress during his run for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
Women have given into temptation, too. Last year, Angela Tilling, a personal assistant at Price Waterhouse Coopers in Birmingham, England, was sentenced to nine months in jail for a series of fraudulent expenses. When confronted, she claimed that she was simply covering up the fact that she was having an affair with her married boss, and didn't want his wife to spot the curious payments.
When her day in court came, however, the story that her lawyer told was different. What was the reason Tilling defrauded the company out of 50,000 pounds for a celebrity appearance at the office Christmas party, and several thousands more for a staff lunch at an upscale hotel, a hotel conference, and theater tickets for co-workers? Because, he said, she "was a woman approaching middle-age, unmarried, without children and living with her parents and was essentially quite lonely ... who bought the friendship and affection of people with whom she worked."
So men lie about their expenses to cover up extra-marital flings, and women lie about their expenses to buy sweet perks for the office so that their co-workers will like them? That's pretty depressing for both man- and womankind.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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