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Chicago Rabbi Advances Fraud Claim Against Cozen O’Connor

Feb. 27, 2020, 4:46 PM

Cozen O’Connor PC must face part of a longtime Chicago rabbi’s lawsuit accusing the law firm of working with his former synagogue to wrongfully reduce his retirement benefits.

Stanley Kroll, who served as Chicago Loop Synagogue’s full-time rabbi for nearly 40 years, is moving forward with claims that the Philadelphia-based firm aided and abetted the synagogue’s fraudulent conduct. Kroll adequately alleged that Cozen attorneys knowingly participated in the synagogue’s fraudulent plan to diminish his benefits, including by drafting an amendment to his deferred compensation plan, Judge John Z. Lee of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held Wednesday.

However, Lee dismissed Kroll’s claims of legal malpractice and aiding and abetting a fiduciary breach. Kroll said he was authorized to bring a malpractice claim by virtue of his settlement agreement with the synagogue, which expressly assigned to him the synagogue’s right to sue for malpractice. But Illinois law doesn’t allow the assignment of malpractice claims except in certain limited circumstances, Lee said.

Kroll’s lawsuit claims he was induced to retire in 2016 based in part on promises about his deferred compensation plan. Upon his retirement, he was told that his benefits wouldn’t be what he expected, because of a combination of funding problems, tax violations, and a plan amendment drafted by Cozen attorneys, which Kroll decried as “fraudulent.”

Kroll settled his lawsuit against the synagogue in 2018.

Carmen D. Caruso Law Firm represents Kroll. Cozen represents itself.

The case is Kroll v. Cozen O’Connor, 2020 BL 70157, N.D. Ill., No. 1:19-cv-03919, 2/26/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacklyn Wille in Washington at jwille@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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