Questions Remain About the Potentially Unethical Behaviour of Frederick Oberlander

Frederick Oberlander is a lawyer practicing in the state of New York. In August of 2018, the federal bar grievance committee suspended Oberlander’s right to practice law for a period of one year. The action occurred due to the behaviour of the law professional while working on a prior fraud case.

The case in which the committee believed Oberlander committed ethical violations was against an international real estate company that had previously worked on large-scale development projects like the Trump SoHo Hotel. A former employee of the company hired Frederick Oberlander to pursue claims of fraud against the organization. The fraud charges were based on the employment of Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman with a criminal history according to the disgruntled client of Oberlander. The client stated the fraud charges were due to the concealment by the real estate company of Mr. Sater’s background.

Oberlander filed the complaint in 2010. His efforts to uncover information for the case was the basis for his suspension. Oberlander used confidential information about Sater’s criminal background from files sealed by the court. The files were previously sealed due to a cooperation agreement between Sater and the U.S. Government. An injunction currently prevents Mr. Oberlander from the use of any information the lawyer discovered in the files. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, based in Manhattan, affirmed the injunction.

Oberlander refused repeatedly to follow the orders of the court by not acknowledging if the fraud complaint filed for his client included any of the information that he unlawfully obtained. In 2015, due to his refusal to meet the demands of the court, a judge for the federal district court overseeing the fraud complaint issued an order that imposed sanctions on the litigation. The court refused to allow the use of any information in the case that Oberlander unlawfully obtained. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York also began a criminal investigation of Oberlander due to his handling of the case.

The grievance committee suspended Oberlander for one year from the practice of law with the publication of a 40-page order. According to the order, Oberlander engaged in illegal conduct that included a violation of court orders, the disclosure of confidential information from sealed documents, and demanded a financial settlement to prevent further disclosure of information found in the sealed documents.

Oberlander sought representation in his case by an attorney from the law firm of Wilson Elsner. The attorney, Richard Lerner, was a friend to Oberlander and refused to withdraw from the case when ordered by his employer. Due to the prior actions of Oberlander, the firm chose not to be associated with the lawyer and fired Lerner to prevent any damage to the reputation of their firm.

Oberlander will return to practicing law at the completion of his one-year sentence. The opinion of many is that his unethical and law-breaking behaviour will also return. There is a belief that Oberlander does not have the ethics necessary to practice in a court of law.

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