The Supreme Judicial Court on Monday ruled that Citizens Bank had no responsibility in a fraud committed more than a decade ago by former Boston defense attorney Morris M. Goldings.
The decision upheld a lower court’s dismissal of most of the claims brought by Go-Best Assets Ltd., a Hong Kong company that lost $5 million in the scheme. The state’s highest court also reversed two remaining claims the company had made against Citizens, ruling that, “There is no evidence that the bank actively participated in or substantially assisted in any fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, or conversion committed by Goldings against Go-Best.”
Goldings was a high-profile First Amendment lawyer in Boston at one time, defending owners of strip clubs and adult film houses in the downtown area formerly known as the Combat Zone. He was convicted in 2002 of stealing $17 million from his firm’s clients and sentenced to three years in federal prison, and three years’ probation. The firm, Mahoney, Hawkes & Goldings, went out of business, and Goldings was disbarred.
Go-Best sued in a civil case, alleging that Citizens had some responsibility for the $5 million lost at the hands of Goldings. According to Go-Best, Citizens was negligent in the matter because it knew that Goldings was bouncing checks in his account with the bank and should have known that he was misappropriating client funds.
But the high court ruled that there was “no evidence in the record to support a reasonable inference that Citizens Bank had actual knowledge that Goldings had been misappropriating funds....”
A lawyer for Citizens Bank declined comment. Goldings’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.