NRA Bankruptcy Proceedings

March 22 Deposition of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre (Bankruptcy Proceedings)

March 22, 2021

Filing Summary

Ahead of the April NRA trial in the bankruptcy court, former NRA vendor Ackerman McQueen attached partial transcripts of depositions taken in the NRA bankruptcy matter to an April 2nd filing. This includes the deposition of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre; the deposition was taken over two days. Below please find some highlights of the first day of testimony (3/22/2021). Pages references are to the deposition page (not the PDF page number).

Key Points

  • LaPierre testified that “President Trump […] mentioned that we’re having a lot of legal costs and there are a lot of cheap lawyers around.” (p.24)
  • LaPierre testified that he had “made a joke at one point” that he wouldn’t use NRA General Counsel and Secretary John Frazer as a lawyer for his parking tickets. LaPierre followed up by saying that he thought Frazer was “a very good attorney.” (p.25-26)
  • LaPierre claimed that he imposed high ethical standards on NRA employees. (p.32)
  • LaPierre said that “[e]verything I do, I try to do in the best interest of the NRA and always have.” (p.32)
  • LaPierre testified that he didn’t know his own cell phone number. (p.41)
  • In discussing the legal issues of the NRA in recent years, LaPierre asserted that it was “a positive story for this organization” and “a great story” because “the NRA has gone through an unbelievable process” or getting into compliance with nonprofit laws. (p.65)
    • LaPierre complained that the New York Attorney General had filed suit against the NRA “without any recognition of […] all the grief I took for taking NRA down the principle path.” He added that “we honestly believed” that after their work to get into compliance with the law, “that New York would pat us on the back and say, ‘Congratulations, that’s what we expect a good nonprofit to do.’” (p.96-97)
  • In listing the “unbelievable process” the NRA had undertaken to get in compliance with nonprofit law, LaPierre testified that the NRA had held compliance seminars. He later admitted that he didn’t think he had attended any of the seminars, explaining he “very much aware of […] the information they were relaying.” (p.65,73)
    • In fact, LaPierre testified that in 2018, he put Josh Powell, who he would fire a year later for filing improper expense reports, in charge of communicating the NRA’s compliance program for the first seminar. (p.73-74)
  • LaPierre testified that he didn’t know what the NRA did with two hunting trips it had received as gifts in 2019 and wasn’t “aware of what the NRA’s policy is on hunting trips.” (p.99-101)
    • LaPierre has allegedly been “treated to free hunting safaris to exotic locales by an NRA vendor” in years past.
  • LaPierre said that sometime in 2017, the NRA hired law firm Morgan Lewis “to help us with governance” to make sure they were in compliance with New York law. When asked, LaPierre said that he didn’t know what inquiry the firm made before the NRA hired the Brewer firm the following year because he “wasn’t the one specifically working with Morgan Lewis” and “I was so busy at that time […] You had the Las Vegas shooting. You had the Somerville shooting.” (p.53,59)
  • When asked how much the NRA had paid the Brewer firm in 2020, LaPierre responded he thought it was “probably somewhere in the range of 15 to 20 million,” adding that “I spend more time raising money, trying to raise money […] than I do in terms of dealing with, you know, the invoices and all of that type stuff.” (p.209-210)
    • The NRA reported in its bankruptcy filings that between mid-October 2020 and mid-January 2021 alone, the NRA had paid the Brewer firm more than $17 million. In its relevant Forms 990, the NRA reported paying the Brewer firm $13.8 million in 2018 and $24.8 million in 2019.
    • Minutes later, LaPierre said that “throughout the last year,” he worked with the NRA treasurer “virtually every week in terms of where are we on revenue, where are we on expenses, how are we looking,” which was something he “never used to do in the past.” (p.211)
    • LaPierre testified that he didn’t know whether Bill Brewer billed the NRA for the use of his private jet. (p.26)
  • LaPierre testified that he didn’t know why in 2019, the NRA paid former CFO and Treasurer Woody Phillips hundreds of thousands of dollars or whether Phillips performed any services for the NRA that year. (p.89-90)
  • LaPierre testified that the $240,000 the NRA paid former Executive Director of Operations Kyle Weaver in 2019 was part of his severance agreement and that Weaver didn’t perform any services for the NRA that year. (p.90-91)
  • LaPierre disclosed that the state of Texas is “offering us financial incentives to go there.” (p.98)
  • In the NRA’s 2019 Form 990, it alleges that former NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox received improper benefits paid for by the organization, including tickets to sporting or entertainment events. LaPierre testified that Cox “let me use his tickets, although I thought they were his personal tickets.” LaPierre said he hadn’t paid back the organization for using them, but he “would have no problem” doing so. (p.124-126)
  • LaPierre claimed that “NRA security requires that I travel private […] whether personal or business.” (p.104)
  • LaPierre admitted that “there may have been a  trip or two” in 2019 in which he picked up his niece in Nebraska in a private jet paid for by the NRA. (p.104)
  • LaPierre testified that he spent New Year’s Eve 2015 in the Bahamas at a celebrity retreat hosted by NRA vendor Associated Television International (ATI). He claimed that he was there “spending time with all those celebrities, building relationships, talking with potential donors” and that the NRA “[gets] a tremendous benefit out of these celebrity relationships.” He added that ATI covered his expenses “as part of the retreat, like they paid for the rest of the celebrities.” (p.175-178)
    • LaPierre said that he did not disclose the trip on his conflict of interest forms because “it was pure business.” (p.178)
    • LaPierre said that the “NRA needs access into the celebrity community, and Associated Television, after we lost Heston, was one of our last access points into the celebrity community […] because they actually employ a lot of actors and have relationships with a lot of actors in the celebrity community.” (p.179)
  • When asked if he submitted any business justification for a trip to Budapest and Italy that he paid for with a card given to him by Ackerman McQueen and reimbursed by the NRA, LaPierre responded that “I think it was just — everything was so crazy at that time and busy.  I just came back and kept on working, and nobody ever brought it up.  They didn’t ask for any, and I — you know, the main reason I was there was for the Italy trip.” (p.193)
  • LaPierre testified that he and his wife traveled to the Super Bowl on the NRA’s dime for NFL Alumni Association events, saying he believed he got tickets to the game from the NFL Alumni Association. He said he had also attended NFL Alumni Association events at the NFL Pro Bowl in Hawaii. He said he had also been to the NBA All-Star Game, but couldn’t remember who had paid for him to go. LaPierre justified these trips, explaining “all of it benefits the NRA by keeping NRA in the mainstream of American society, as opposed to letting them push us to the fringe, which is how the NRA loses.” (p.133-135)
  • When asked whether the NRA does any sort of analysis of what the return on investment is for the trips LaPierre takes to recruit celebrities, LaPierre responded, “it’s not a science. It’s an art” and asked “what’s the worth of Erik Estrada […] being willing to run for the board of directors of the NRA?” He explained that “all of these cultural bounce points that influence American society are tremendously important if you want to win in today’s modern world.” (p.179-180)
  • LaPierre testified that he didn’t know how much the NRA spent per year for security at his home. (p.195)
    • LaPierre testified that he expensed mosquito treatment outside his home to the NRA “because we have security guys at the house 24 hours a day, and they walk outside” and “the area around our house is swarmed with mosquitos. So we had it sprayed for mosquitoes so they wouldn’t get eaten.” (p.193-194)
  • LaPierre testified that the board of directors and officers of the NRA learned of the excess benefits he had received when the 2019 Form 990 disclosing them and their repayment was publicly filed in November 2020. A month earlier, the NRA board had reelected LaPierre to another annual term as Executive Vice President of the organization. (p.120-121)
  • LaPierre could not remember any board member ever asking him questions about the IRS Forms 990 that the NRA has filed. (p.80)
  • LaPierre said that when he talked to Oliver North about “being president of the NRA and maybe doing a show on the NRATV network, he talked [in] general about what his compensation would have to be,” saying he wanted something in the range of the $2 million he was allegedly being paid by Fox News. LaPierre claimed that he “wasn’t in the room” when “they worked out the final contract.” (p.148)
    • When asked who at the NRA authorized the payment of more than $986,000 to reimburse Ackerman McQueen for Oliver North’s contract, LaPierre said that it was “the treasurer’s office” who “ultimately negotiated the payment, but […] I authorized it, too, I guess.” When pressed, he added “I don’t know how they got exactly the [$]986,000” because “I didn’t see that billing. I didn’t get involved in that.” (p.150-152)
  • LaPierre testified that in 2018, he heard rumors that his aide Millie Hallow had billed “some” of her son’s wedding to the NRA and when he confronted her, “she denies the whole thing.” LaPierre said he believed her because he thought that the people who had told him were doing so “out of a personal dislike” for Hallow. LaPierre also testified that he didn’t ask for any backup information to confirm that she was telling the truth. He claimed that in 2019, he “turned it over to the lawyers,” who discovered “she had billed part of the wedding” to the NRA. LaPierre continued that “five months or so” ago, the NRA gave Hallow an ultimatum to either reimburse the organization $40,000 or face termination. He preemptively defended the decision not to fire her, saying that the people she works with “really think the world of her, and she’s done a lot of good there” and “there’s evidence that she was actually intending to pay it back before, and she came down with cancer.” LaPierre even claimed that “there was a very good probability the organization was going to face litigation if we — if we outright fired her rather than accept just the payback […] And there was a fair chance that she would actually win that lawsuit.” (p.198-204)
    • When LaPierre was asked whether he’d ever heard the term “serial larsonist” used to describe Millie Hallow, he explained that she had been accused of committing “a fraud involving expenses” sometime around 2010, “maybe going back way even before that” and that “a fraud investigative team” had concluded “that she had not committed fraud and then made some recommendations on tightening some NRA controls.” (p.204)
    • LaPierre testified that he first learned about Millie Hallow’s previous conviction for embezzlement when he “[r]ead something in the papers about it […] sometime over the last year,” but that “it was 30 some years ago or something” and he “did not follow up to see whether it was accurate.” (p.205)
  • LaPierre testified that he did not remove himself from conversations with the special litigation committee about the bankruptcy because “I had to be involved in making this work if we were going to do it in terms of my position” as “the day-to-day director of the NRA.” (p.213-214)
  • LaPierre testified that since-departed NRA CFO and Treasurer Craig Spray learned that the organization had filed for bankruptcy “at the same time everyone else found out” and that LaPierre did not discuss with Spray what this would mean for his responsibilities, nor did he know if anyone else had. (p.236-237)