Attorney Michael Avenatti has two and a half years to ponder where a settlement offer ends and extortion begins. I’m Amy E. Feldman.
Celebrity lawyer turned defendant Michael Avenatti was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for attempting to extort money from Nike, by threatening to accuse them publicly of wrongdoing unless they paid him and his client a multimillion dollar settlement. At sentencing, the judge called his conduct “outrageous”. Yeah! But it’s common practice for a lawyer to offer to settle before a suit is filed, so when does a settlement offer become extortion?
Well, the mere threat of filing a lawsuit isn’t generally extortionary, but it can become so if the claim itself is false or if the lawyer is threatening publicity unless someone pays an outrageous amount of money—and particularly when Avenatti asked not that his client be paid but also that he personally be paid millions. Then, it tends to look, as the feds called it, like a shakedown.