Nearly every time we speak with oil and gas investors who have been defrauded, they ask several, very direct and important questions:
A: Like every lawsuit there are time limitations when a plaintiff can sue and avoid having his/her lawsuit thrown out of court due to its late filing. Although there are a few exceptions, the bottom line is the investor should file a lawsuit within three years from the date of the investment.
A: No. The Texas Security Act (the “Act”) allows the plaintiff-investor to sue not only the company, but also the salesman, the “closer,” and the “control person” of the company. The “closer” is the person who contacts the investor after the salesman has made his presentation to “close the deal” and obtain your money. The “control person” is usually the majority owner of the company, who has the power to direct the management of the company and/or the power to control the transactions or activities of the oil and gas project.
A: Generally, the Act allows the investor to recover the total amount invested, less any revenue received, plus interest, court costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees. Additionally, in most every case we will allege fraud which can entitle the investor to recover exemplary damages, which are designed to penalize the defendant(s) for outrageous and malicious conduct.
A: We ask people to:
- Gather all of the documents sent and/or received regarding their investment;
- Create what we call a “chronology of events,” which is effectively a diary of each time a representative of the company contacted them, when, and what was represented (this is very important);
- Let us know if they have the contact information of other like-investors; and (4) send us a copy of all of this information.
A: Initially, we review the information received to determine if that information supports a lawsuit. If so, the client and the Firm enter into an attorney-client agreement. Then we send a demand letter to all of the potential defendants expressing that we represent you, outline the legal basis for their liability, demand that they return all of the money you are entitled to with ten days, or prepare to defend a lawsuit. We also advise the investor that there is a 99% chance that the letter will go unanswered.
A: If we receive no response to our demand letter, we will file a lawsuit against the defendants. The claims which are most often made against the defendants are:
Violations of the Act;
- Fraud and fraud in the inducement (effectively meaning, that the defendants lied to you to get you to enter into a contract with them);
- Breach of contract;
- Breach of fiduciary duty:
- Exemplary damages; and a
- Request for attorney’s fees and court costs.
The defendants have 21 days after the first Monday they were served to file a response.
Once we receive their response, we begin the “discovery” process. This entails:
A request for disclosure, which asks basic questions regarding the defendant’s position in the case;
- Requests for production of documents;
- A requests for admissions, which asks the defendant to admit or deny certain important facts;
- Interrogatories, which are written questions; and
- Depositions of witnesses.
After the discovery process is completed the case is referred to mediation. This is a process to attempt to settle the case. If no settlement is reached, the case will go to trial. However, most cases are settled without going to trial.
A: No. It is unethical for a lawyer to make any type of guarantee in a case. However, in most of these lawsuits, we work to secure a judgment against the company, the salesman, the “closer” and the “control person.” A judgment against those parties allows us to go after their assets according to Texas law. Finally, since it is likely that the company will continue to raise money from other investors, the plaintiff can pursue that additional money in the company’s bank account to satisfy the judgment.
A: No matter what someone has said to you, no two cases are alike. Accordingly, the fees in each case may be very different. The Texas Rules of Professional Conduct list eight factors to which we adhere in determining the appropriate fee.