NRA v. Oliver North

NRA v. Oliver North, Complaint

June 19, 2019

Filing Summary

Oliver North asked the NRA to indemnify him for legal expenses incurred in responding to a subpoena and a Congressional inquiry arising out of North’s involvement at the NRA. The NRA brought this lawsuit asking the court to declare that North has no right to indemnification from the NRA.

Key Points

  • The NRA characterizes North as a “highly compensated agent of … Ackerman.” (Para. 2.)  It alleges that North “conspired with Ackerman to withhold material facts and documents from the NRA” and “took extreme measures,” (Para. 2), including “promulgating false allegations against the NRA” to deter the NRA from obtaining those materials or learning those facts. (Para. 12.)
  • The NRA cites to “secret text messages” which the NRA argues prove that North, along with another “errant NRA Board member,” Dan Boren, conspired with Ackerman to unseat the NRA’s executive leadership and give Ackerman “lucrative, de facto control over its largest client.” (Para. 2.) The NRA also alleges the involvement of Chris Cox, an “NRA fiduciary … once thought by some to be a likely successor for … LaPierre.” (Para. 48.)
  • The NRA states that Ackerman “has repeatedly betrayed the NRA’s trust” since around May 2018. (Para. 17.)
  • The NRA claims that Ackerman: (1) “scapegoated the NRA’s outside counsel,” (Para. 25); (2) “forbid [forensic] accountants from disclosing to the NRA material information, including copies of the annual budget,” (Para. 25); and (3) leaked confidential information with “a clear intent to damage the NRA.” (Para. 26).
  • On April 22, 2019, the NRA complaint claims Ackerman sent letters to “select NRA executives” with records intended to “foster salacious, misleading impressions of the NRA’s expense accounting practices.” (Para. 28.) As the NRA understood it, Ackerman was threatening to “maliciously publicize [records] … to cause maximum reputational damage to the NRA’s leadership” unless the NRA withdrew a lawsuit against Ackerman. (Para. 28.)
  • The NRA raises concerns about the contract between Ackerman and North. (Paras. 29–40.)  As North assumed the presidency of the NRA, he negotiated a contract with Ackerman to host an NRATV documentary series. (Para. 30.) The NRA and Ackerman amended the Service Agreement to make clear that North would be considered a third-party contractor with Ackerman (as a result of North’s contract with Ackerman) for the purposes of any termination fee under the Services Agreement. (Para. 30.) According to the NRA”s complaint, the Audit Committee of the NRA Board “reviewed a purported summary of the material terms” of the North contract and ratified it. (Paras. 32–33.) The Audit Committee was apparently assured that NRA counsel would review the North Contract in full, but that allegedly did not occur because Ackerman and North refused to provide the North Contract. (Para. 33.)
  • Eventually, Ackerman allowed a “brief, circumscribed, ‘live’ review of the North Contract.” (Para. 34.) But the NRA was not allowed to retain a copy of the contract. (Para. 34.) This review raised questions over: (1) whether North was in fact an employee of Ackerman; (2) whether the costs paid by the NRA in connection with the contract were complete and accurate; and (3) “whether the contract imposed obligations on Col. North that prevent him from communicating fully and honestly with other NRA fiduciaries about [Ackerman].” (Para. 34.) The NRA argues that this contract made North “an actual employee” of Ackerman, which meant that “all this time North has owed fiduciary duties to Ackerman,” (Para. 37), even though North’s compensation from Ackerman was “reimbursed by the NRA.” (Para. 38.)
  • North’s documentary series was, according to the NRA, a failure: of the 12 “feature-length episodes” promised under the three-year agreement, only three short episodes were produced in the first 11 months. (Para. 39.)
  • The NRA claims that in April 2019, North conspired with others in an “extortion scheme” to “enrich himself and protect his employer Ackerman, at the expense of the NRA.” (Para. 42.) The NRA alleges that on April 24, 2019, North called an aide to LaPierre, Millie Hallow, to relay the contents of a letter “Ackerman purportedly planned to disseminate” with “misleading, malicious allegations.” (Para. 43.) According to the NRA, North extorted LaPierre by threatening to send the letter unless LaPierre resigned from the NRA and “arrange[d] for the NRA to withdraw its lawsuit [against] Ackerman[].” (Para. 44.) North also allegedly offered LaPierre an “excellent retirement” if he complied with North’s demands. (Para. 46.) LaPierre rejected North’s offer. (Para. 47.)
  • Around May 3, 2019, the United States Senate Committee on Finance sent North a request for information. (Para. 51.) That request asked for information related to “public statements [North] recently made alleging financial improprieties at the NRA.” (Para. 51). North asked the NRA to indemnify him for any fees arising out of this inquiry and the NRA refused. (Paras. 52–53.)
  • By letter dated March 31, 2019, the NRA asked North to either resign from his remaining leadership positions in the NRA or from his employment at Ackerman. (Para. 58.) At the time of this filing, North has refused to resign from the NRA board. (Para. 58.)
  • The NRA seeks a declaration from the court that North is not entitled to advancement or indemnification of legal fees or expenses from the NRA. (Paras. 59–73.)