Developers David Walters and Randal Walters have filed a lawsuit against the estate of bankruptcy attorney Jerrold Wanek in which, among other things, they seek punitive damages "designed to insure that 'Wanek' will cease and desist from such actions in the future."
The Walters' lawyer, Raymond Cook, is scheduled to argue a claim of at least $1 million against Wanek's estate today before Associate Probate Judge Ruth Klotz at the Polk County Courthouse.
Klotz will hear a virtual cattle call of claimants, with hearings scheduled every 15 minutes through the afternoon involving businesses and individuals seeking nearly $8.3 million from the estate.
Another $10.9 million in claims filed by three banks have been withdrawn, an attorney for the lenders said today.
Wanek died of heart failure Jan. 25 while vacationing with his wife, Carolyn, on the Caribbean island of St. Barts, their favorite spot to "get away from the world." He was 53.
His practice had been dominated by the representation of troubled businesses and their owners following the collapse of the real estate and credit markets in 2007 and 2008.
Wanek had said in a Jan. 6 Business Record article that he planned to close his practice July 1 and consult with and possibly take an ownership role with homegrown Iowa businesses that were struggling in a tough economy.
"The recession did two things," Wanek said. "It kept me busy enough that I can afford to retire, and it burned me out. I did 12 years' worth of work in five years."
Among his clients were developers David Walters and his wife, Jody, Randal Walters and John Kline, all of whom watched their businesses collapse and who sought protection from creditors in federal bankruptcy court. David and Randal Walters are distant cousins.
Kline and Randal Walters also were indicted on bank and wire fraud charges. Randal Walters has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Kline is scheduled for trial early next year.
David and Jody Walters, along with businessmen Randal Shima, Ronald Haugen and Jim Eastvold, say they hired Wanek to represent them in bankruptcy proceedings and debt collection matters. They say they were overcharged and received "little, if any, favorable results" from his services.
Eco-Tech Construction LLC seeks nearly $5.4 million from the estate, the amount awarded by a Dallas County judge who found that Kline engaged in a fraud by diverting development loans to a variety of personal uses, including the purchase of works of art.
Eco-Tech alleges in its probate claim that Wanek assisted in concealing assets to avoid paying the district court judgment against Kline.