NRA v. Ackerman, Virginia

Case Summary

In April 2019, the NRA brought suit against its longtime partner and public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen.  While the initial suit focused on the narrow question of whether Ackerman had provided documents pursuant to a record examination clause of the contract, the case quickly escalated with the parties lobbing accusations of deceit, wrongdoing, and extortion, among other allegations.  This litigation is of significant economic consequence – the NRA reportedly spent up to $40 million a year on Ackerman’s services.

In May of 2019, the NRA and Ackerman ended their contractual relationship.  This resulted, among other consequences, in the shuttering of NRTV – a venture that the NRA had contracted Ackerman to lead. 

Ackerman has counterclaimed in the litigation (amended counterclaims filed November 13, 2019) against the NRA seeking damages of over $100 million.  In the litigation, Ackerman has alleged that NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre arranged for NRA Board President, Oliver North, to receive a lucrative contract with Ackerman McQueen.   In addition to contract claims, Ackerman also alleges a cause of action for “abuse of process”, claiming that the NRA’s litigation strategy is abusive.  

In its amended and consolidated complaint (filed January 30, 2020), the NRA alleges nine separate causes of action against Ackerman, including, breach of fiduciary duty, financial fraud, fraud relating to NRATV, conspiracy, and various contract claims.  Remarkably, the NRA acknowledges that NRATV, its flagship communications network, “often became viewed as a dystopian culture rant that deterred membership growth”, and even noted in a pleading that “some NRA leaders found [NRA TV] distasteful and racist.”  In the litigation, the NRA also details the alleged “extortion” attempt by its board president Oliver North.  The complaint claims North told Wayne LaPierre, on the eve of the 2019 NRA Convention, that Ackerman planned to disseminate a letter that would be “bad” for LaPierre, including “a laundry list of allegations” relating to wardrobe, travel, and entertainment expenses paid for by Ackerman (and then invoiced back to the NRA), in addition to revelations concerning “sexual harassment accusations against an NRA staff member.”

LaPierre, North, and several other current and former NRA leaders have been deposed in the case.  The consolidated action is currently in the Circuit Court in Alexandria, Virginia, with a trial date previously on the docket for January 2021.  However, in March 2020, over the objection of the NRA, the Virginia court stayed the action pending resolution of the litigation between the parties in Texas.  The case number is CL19001757.

Secrecy, Self-Dealing, and Greed at the N.R.A.

The New Yorker

Timeline

April 24, 2019
NRA lawsuit that kicked off the NRA-Ackerman legal disputes.
May 22, 2019
NRA’s second complaint against Ackerman dealing with alleged leaks to the media
July 16, 2019
Ackerman responds with counterclaims against the NRA alleging misconduct at the NRA.
January 23, 2020
Ackerman motion sheds some light on NRA discovery.
January 23, 2020
The NRA's purported "expert" witnesses are revealed
January 30, 2020
Revised NRA Complaint filed.
March 18, 2020
Ackerman wins a pause in the Virginia litigation battle with the NRA.