The following is an article in the Courthouse News Service of May 13, 2013, in Detroit, Michigan.

This is indeed a sad story where court reporter indecently over manny years steals from their fellow court reporters who are all subcontractors. If you have worked for them, as you read this, you may discover you are also a victim and owed money.

Posted on LinkedIn in Court Reporter Net - and on other Linkedin court reporter forums - hopefully to be read by all court reporters who believe they have been violated as described below in detail.

DETROIT (CN) - Twenty-six court reporters claim Bienenstock & Associates, Michigan's largest court reporting firm, "stole" more than $1 million from them by lying about how much it charged clients, and "bullied their employees with temper tantrums and threats of termination" to keep "their unethical and unlawful business practices" hidden.

Susan Lowry and 25 other court reporters sued Lauren Bienenstock & Associates Inc., Lauren Bienenstock, and Samuel Bienenstock in Macomb County.

Twenty-three of the 26 plaintiffs are women. All the plaintiffs are all licensed court reporters who worked as independent contractors for Bienenstock & Associates.

"This case is about greed, deception and betrayal, the 27-page complaint begins. "Twenty-six licensed court reporters are suing Michigan's largest and best-known court reporting firm to recover over $1 million they believe has been stolen from them by Lauren and Samuel Bienenstock and their court reporting firm. Many more potential plaintiffs are waiting in the wings, so terrorized by the Bienenstocks' promises of retribution that they fear public identification.

All of these court reporters, many of who have provided services to the largest law firms and most prominent lawyers practicing in Michigan and throughout the United States, have one thing in common: the Bienenstocks have misled them, lied to them, and stolen huge sums of money from them for almost 20 years, all while pretending to act on their behalf and in their best interests.

"The Bienenstocks' scheme was simple: use every possible tactic to convert payments from attorneys and law firms for plaintiffs' court reporting services to their own use, despite their agreement with plaintiffs that at least 70 percent of those payments belonged to them.

The Bienenstocks sold plaintiffs' deposition transcripts without telling them, secretly charged higher rates for plaintiffs' services, and charged for myriad additional services, all the while keeping every penny of the additional income for themselves.

"Like most such schemes, this one also involved a cover up: the Bienenstocks employed elaborate internal processes and office protocols to conceal their unethical and unlawful business practices. The Bienenstocks bullied their employees with temper tantrums and threats of termination should they reveal the truth to plaintiffs, and they consistently denied their dishonest practices when questions arose.

The Bienenstocks used plaintiffs' money to fund an outlandish lifestyle replete with luxury homes, exotic cars, and extravagant vacations for themselves and generous gifts for the attorneys and law firms who unwittingly facilitated the Bienenstocks' corrupt business.

"Although startling enough on its face, the Bienenstocks' outrageous behavior is particularly execrable in light of the integral role licensed court reporters and court reporting firms play in our legal system. They provide the certified transcripts of sworn deposition testimony relied upon in nearly every case and nearly every court here and across the country, their activities are strictly regulated by Michigan statute and the Michigan Court Rules, and they are regulated by the State Court Administrative Office, the administrative agency of the Michigan Supreme Court.

The Bienenstocks' longstanding scheme to pocket the plaintiffs' income thus undermines the integrity of the vital process by which certified deposition transcripts are produced for the use of this and other courts."

The reporters add: "The customers generally ordered transcripts directly from the court reporters on the same day as the depositions. When this occurred, plaintiffs were aware that a transcript had been ordered and they expected to receive and, on information and belief, usually did receive what they believed was their agreed-upon share of the payment received by Bienenstock & Associates."

But when customers ordered transcripts after the day of the deposition, "defendants took calculated steps to conceal the existence of back orders and payments received for back orders from plaintiffs so that they could keep all of the customers' payments for themselves, including plaintiffs' share of those payments," the complaint states.

The Bienenstocks also charged customers a higher hourly rate than it paid plaintiffs and sometimes negotiated higher per page rates than the rates it disclosed to the reporters, according to the complaint.

The court reporters seek damages for conversion, breach of contract, fraud, fraudulent concealment, and unjust enrichment. They also ask the court for a declaratory judgment as to which claims are subject to arbitration agreements, because the Bienenstocks did not provide the reporters with a copy of their executed employment contracts.

They are represented by Kevin O'Shea of Miller Law Group of Rochester, Michigan.

"Is it possible that this is not an isolated case? NCRA, should follow this story. Its ethics committee especially.

Ask yourself. If NCRA is going to try to police its members on ethics why wouldn't it - if there is indeed one or more verdicts against the Bienenstocks, then should not there be some form of recrimination exacted on them for theft and running a continuing fraudulent scheme to deprive their lifeblood, their subcontractors, what is clearly theirs?

If NCRA has no bite, it has no gumption, it has no ability like the ABA or other national associations to suspend one's membership, then ask yourself as a working stiff, what good is the NCRA anyway? The Bienenstocks frankly could care less what NCRA does - if anything.

Where they will most assuredly hurt will be in lost business, from a booming business to a shell of a business. No doubt one or two heads rolled but not the Bienenstocks. Therefore what promises they make to their reporters is still shrouded in continued deception.

The NCRA should at least publicly rebuke the Bienenstocks in the JCR for three months warning the unsuspected that working for this former illustrious reporting agency may spell trouble for their pocketbook.

Regardless, my gut feeling is the Giant is climbing down this Bienenstock but this time he makes it all the way down safely to the ground to exact the punishment befitting the crimes.

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The audacity of any agency to roll back their rates to the '80s or '90s and expect to find reporters who will cover the work for some percentage of that lower figure.  It's understood by normal people that the people who get the volume are the ones who take the hit.  The working stiff reporter is certainly getting no benefit from the volume that these desperate agencies I suppose are getting due their profession-killing discounts. Reporters need to get a spine and learn what current-day rates are and say no to the BS of working for outdated rates.

Well said, Marge!!!

where is the "like" button!  So true!  The only one getting rich is the greedy firm, whether they be court reporters or not.  I REFUSE to work less than I'm worth, and it has gotten so horrible in Michigan.  Sometimes in order to compete these firms are charged $2.30 to $2.80 with deals they have made with insurance companies.  And sometimes we are working here, and the out of state firms somehow get our work, we have to send them an ascii at our reg rate, but it's and orig and 4 and they only pay for orig and 2!!   I refuse to honor that. 

why should they make money off of my work product?  But lots of the gals that work at the aforementioned firm, they only make money on volume, and were happy with being treated like a dime a dozen or they were dispensible.

What a horrendous state of affairs from every angle.  It's sickening all around.  

And this is what every reporter needs to remember, as you say, Kelley Nader:  "I REFUSE to work less than I'm worth."

The sad problem is:  Younger/inexperienced reporters don't know their worth, and untalented/unsavvy/desperate reporters are willing to take LOOOOOOOOOW rates, just to have any work at all.

Reporters need to:  WAKE UP!  RESPECT YOURSELF! 

Excellent post, Kelley Nader!  

"Get out there and hoof it, Lauren.  Work in this environment that you created."

FANTASTIC!!!

And that should happen to the other agencies who are purposely keeping rates low, back from the late '70s/'80s, that pay CENTS on a copy.

 

As Kelley Nader says:  Get out there in the real world and hoof it, in the environment that you created!

As if many who set these low rates can do the job, even poorly.  They are much better suited to pulling wool over eyes, wining, dining, gifting--but I loved that "hoof it" comment, too (lol).

As for reporters not getting paid what they are worth: some are worth exactly what they are being paid, even less; and for those, keep up the lousy work, as long as you're working for the lowballers.  It's those reporters who are excellent, worrying about every comma, every spelling, every utterance, spending vast amounts of time on a transcript for peanuts, yes, those are the reporters that make you go hmmmm. >:(

Now back to this rush--for good money.

A play on Andrew Dice Clay, in reference to the hoof comment: Treat you like the animal you are.

LOL!  You guys liked that, huh!  :)  I just heard that Lauren had to go out and buy a Diamante and start working to help cover deps, so that is where that came from.  All hearsay, though.  And to the comment you should take the dep and just do it on your own, she would only give you a dep that she can get "reports" back on how you behaved, and she would be calling you, and the attorney would probably pay her whatever we were to invoice.  Lauren is no dummy when it comes to money in her pocket.  We have so many horror stories, you would be shocked.

 

 

Kelley, what type of deps could she not receive a report?  I'd think an owner could verify with any job, no?

That's why I don't eat lunch in the deposition suite!

Kelley, I'm on vacation at our cabin in northern Pennsylvania.  Will be here for 2 weeks.  I went to a Class of '75 fundraiser for a scholarship we give every year and met a classmate who turned out to be ... A LAWYER.  And she lives near me in Washington DC!  We chatted for a while, and she named the reporting agency her law firm uses, named a couple of people that made my skin crawl.  I was polite with, "Oh really?" and "Yes, I know of them."  When she asked me questions, I answered VERY firmly ... "And do you ever work for them, Mary Ann?"  Me:  "Never."  And, "Have you ever worked for them?"  Me:  "NEVER!"  Finally, she named the agency owner and I said, "Yes, I know her.  Most reporters in the area do."  Then stopped talking.  She paused but a split-second before she said, "You don't like her, do you?"  My simple answer:  "No."  I invited her to contact me and we'd have a little chat about that agency, their owner, and the devastation she's wreaked upon the reporting community here.  Yes, some love her, but I say she's the devil.  Oh, and you mentioned that this devious agency owner was a great salesperson.  So is this one ... could sell ice to an Eskimo.  Both lawyers and reporters are pulled in under her spell.  She a line of bullshit she can serve up!  Truth is, yes, she's well known in DC ... and despised.  I could fully staff a reporting agency with schedulers, production, videographers and reporters that she's stabbed in the back and left lying along the side of the road.  Indeed, the reputations of these agency owners should spread near and far, and I hope it does.

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