NRA v. Ackerman, Texas

Case Summary

In late August 2019, the NRA brought a relatively limited lawsuit against its longtime partner and public relations firm Ackerman McQueen in federal court in the Northern District of Texas. The suit focused on Ackerman’s alleged improper profiling of its former NRA work on the firm’s website.  The initial federal complaint was only 11 pages.  By this time, the parties were already embroiled in litigation in state court in Virginia over the deterioration of their business relationship.

However, the federal litigation in Texas quickly escalated with the parties lobbing accusations of deceit, wrongdoing, and extortion, among other allegations.  This litigation is now of significant economic consequence, with both parties seeking over $50 million in damages.

Ackerman has counterclaimed in the litigation (amended counterclaims filed November 15, 2019) against the NRA and NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. The counterclaim levies several new and detailed allegations of wrongdoing at the NRA, and alleges the following causes of action: (1) Libel (against the NRA and LaPierre); (2) Tortious Interference with Contract (against the NRA and LaPierre); (3) Declaratory Judgment (against the NRA); (4) Fraud (against LaPierre); and (5) Breach of Contract (against the NRA). 

In its amended complaint (filed October 25, 2019), the NRA alleges eight separate causes of action against Ackerman McQueen, Mercury Group, and individual defendants Henry Martin, William Winkler, Melanie Montgomery, and Jesse Greenberg (all Ackerman employees).  While the initial complaint focused narrowly on copyright issues pertaining to Ackerman’s use of NRA materials on its website, the amended complaint alleges a bevy of allegations against Ackerman and the individual defendants, including: (1) Lanham Act False Association Claims, (2) Copyright Infringement, (3) Conversion, (4) Fraud, (5) Breach of Fiduciary Duty, (6) Conspiracy, (7) Breach of Fiduciary Duty of Loyalty, and (8) Breach of Contract.

This case has taken on added significance because, as of March 2020 and over the objection of the NRA, the Virginia state court litigation between the NRA and Ackerman has been stayed pending the outcome of this case in Texas. The filings on this page are a selection of the more significant filings in the matter.  The full docket can be accessed at the PACER website for the Northern District of Texas. 

[t]hroughout his tenure with the NRA, LaPierre has routinely used third-party vendors like [Ackerman] to conceal his penchant for personal spending.

Ackerman Filing

Timeline

August 30, 2019
NRA complains of Ackerman’s use of their IP
October 1, 2019
Ackerman hits back with a countersuit
November 15, 2019
Ackerman's amended counterclaims contain explosive allegations of wrongdoing at the NRA
December 3, 2019
William Winkler files declaration about the contemplated LaPierre Dallas mansion purchase
April 16, 2020
Ackerman seeks disqualification of NRA attorney Bill Brewer over alleged wrongful conduct. Ackerman estimates NRA legal bills at $54 million.