Today we are covering the rise and fall of the law firm McClenny, Moseley and Associates, or “MMA.” We did a video about them last year, interviewing Zach Moseley after a judge called them out for filing thousands of cases in Louisiana related to hurricane damage.
A lot has happened since then: MMA’s Louisiana office has shut down, William Huye–one of the partners–has had his license suspended, and it’s been reported that founding partner James McClenny has left the firm. MMA is now being sued by homeowners and Apex Roofing. So how did they get here?
PT.1 – HISTORY OF MMA
James McClenny and Zach Moseley earned a reputation before they came to Louisiana. As young lawyers they both worked for The Voss Law Firm in Texas, which focused on commercial policy claims for hail and storm damage.
Steve Badger, who represents some of the insurance companies Voss sued, says they were known for the high volume of cases they went after.
Steve Badger: [00:04:34] What we noticed with the lawyers at the Voss law firm and with James and Zach is what I would like to say: don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. It was as though lawyers like them pursued everything with the belief that they could, as long as they could sign up a client and find an expert to say anything for them, there had to be some money the insurance company would pay to resolve the matter
After a couple years at Voss, James and Zach opened their own firm in 2016: McClenny, Moseley & Associates. Like Voss, MMA focused on commercial storm damage claims in Texas and Florida. But they were using a new strategy:
Steve Badger: They started marketing directly to contractors. They didn’t market the public adjusters. They started going to the contractor conferences when the storm and conferences like that to try to solicit cases directly from contractors and cut out public adjusters.
Public adjusters can access storm damage and help present a claim to the insurance company. In some states, they can also negotiate settlements. By cutting them out, MMA gets a larger fee.
Steve Badger: What would typically happen is that lawyers would tell public adjusters, hey, you can’t get a claim resolved, send it to me. And instead of taking a 40% fee, I’ll cut my fee to 30% so you can still get your 10% commission when the matter is resolved. And that was the normal model we’ve seen for the past decade. To their credit, James and Zach said let’s cut out the 10%.
MMA had success with this model, and in 2020 they opened an office in Louisiana. James and Zach were not licensed in the state, so they brought on William Huye as a managing partner and started pursuing residential hurricane claims.
PT. 2 – WHAT WENT WRONG
McClenny Moseley’s problems started in October 2021, when U.S. District Judge James Cain Jr. called them out for filing 1,600 claims in four days:
Cain’s statement from previous video: “I’m telling you, don’t ever come back to my court. God forbid we ever have another hurricane, but I do not ever want to see this again. Hear me. Tell your partners in Houston to stay the frick out of my court with this kind of trash.”
In March 2023, Judge Cain suspended McClenny Moseley from practicing in the Western District of Louisiana for 90 days. In his order, Cain outlined multiple issues with MMA’s cases including duplicate filings, suits filed against insurers who had no policy with the plaintiff, cases filed on claims that had already been settled, and signing checks without authorization.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. A separate case in the Eastern District of Louisiana revealed two MMA “schemes” involving Apex Roofing and a marketing company called Velawcity.
MMA started working with Apex Roofing in 2021, and their agreement revolved around “Assignments of Benefits,” or AOBs.
AOBs are forms signed by homeowners that allow contractors like Apex to file a damage claim, make repair decisions, and collect insurance payments.
Austin Marks: Apex’s business model was to walk through the streets and knock on people’s doors and say– whether it was after Hurricane Ida or whether it was after a hail event or a major wind event in May of 2022– they would knock on doors and say, ‘We can get you a free roof. Sign this contract, we’ll take care of the rest.’
These contracts are legal in Louisiana, but not all insurance policies allow them.
According to Apex, MMA was hired to review their clients policies, process the AOBs, and represent Apex’s interests with the insurance companies.
What we know now from court documents is that MMA falsely claimed to represent the homeowner –not Apex– in at least 850 cases.
This led the Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance to file a cease-and-desist order against MMA and open a fraud investigation.
Austin Marks is an attorney at Morris Bart, a New Orleans firm which has taken on about 1,000 of MMA’s former cases. He says many of these homeowners signed up for Apex’s services without knowing their claims were being handled by McClenny Moseley.
Austin Marks: We have seen a lot of McClenny Moseley contracts that are signed by an Apex employee on behalf of the homeowner. And so what our clients are saying is, if McClenny Moseley ever reached out to those homeowners during the course of the claims process, they thought it was because that’s what they needed to do for Apex to continue to do their work. They had no idea that they were signing a whole new contingency contract with a law firm and that they were oftentimes going to take a huge chunk of that potential settlement.
One of those contracts was submitted into court records in the case of Tricia Franatovich, whose home in Hammond, Louisiana was damaged by Hurricane Ida. She had signed an AOB with Apex, but made no agreement with MMA. Yet this contract states that “Client” will pay MMA 33% of their settlement. The electronic signature lists Tricia Franatovich’s name, but what appears to be an Apex email address, and a mailing address in Alabama, where Apex is based. MMA used this contract to file a lawsuit against an insurance company, claiming that they represented Tricia Frnatovich.
Apex Roofing maintains that prior to the Franatovich case, they were not aware that MMA was misrepresenting themselves.
In a statement to Roofing Insights, Apex said: “We retained and trusted MMA as a legal expert, and had no knowledge of any alleged wrongdoings. As soon as we were informed that MMA filed pleadings on behalf of some of these homeowners, we immediately took action—including evaluating our relationship with MMA, retaining new counsel, and ultimately deciding not to work with the firm moving forward.”
Apex further stated that the company has “not been accused of any wrongdoing by the Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance or any regulatory authority, and is fully cooperating with the Department of Insurance to aid and support in its investigation”
In December 2021 MMA began working with a marketing agency called Velawcity to generate client leads. But, their agreement went beyond just advertising.
Velawcity was actually pre-screening clients and having them sign contingency fee contracts for MMA. That is illegal under Louisiana law.
Austin Marks: “It’s a modern day case runner as Judge North described it. You can’t have someone sign a legal contract without a lawyer explaining it to you on our end.“
Austin Marks says almost all of the former MMA clients taken on by his firm had some contact with Velawcity. Many of them didn’t know who MMA was when they signed up.
Austin Marks: “There was a lot of confusion about who is representing them because with lead generation— as it’s known– somebody on Facebook clicks a button because they have a hurricane claim. And then you go through the process, you click a few buttons, you give them your information. You have no idea that McClenny Moseley is going to be the law firm that your case gets sent to.“
According to their contract, MMA was paying Velawcity $3,500 per client. In total, they paid Velawcity $13.938 million in less than a year.
In an order on March 16th, U.S. District Judge Michael North described MMA’s actions with Apex and Velawcity as “a pattern of misconduct on a scale likely never before seen here.”
“I’ve been a lawyer for 25 years –I have never seen a clearer or more shameless series of violations of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 and the Rules of Professional Conduct than what confronts us here,” North wrote.
“What is less clear is: What will be the ultimate impact of the violations and misconduct catalogued here on the Court and, far more importantly, on the policyholders of this District who continue to await resolution of their Hurricane Ida claims because of MMA’s misconduct?”
PT. 3 – FALLOUT
The “ultimate impact” of MMA’s misconduct has not been decided yet. As of March 3rd, their Louisiana partner William Huye has had his license suspended. It’s a temporary suspension which could become permanent after further review.
It has also been reported that James McClenny has left MMA to start a new firm in Texas, and he is no longer listed on the MMA website.
Apex Roofing is now suing William Huye for legal malpractice, and are seeking reimbursement for damages. In a statement, Apex said their primary goal is to “prove that our company is completely innocent of any wrongdoing, and by extension, the best outcome we can foresee for Apex is that our customers’ trust in us is restored.”
There are ongoing lawsuits against MMA, including one that accuses MMA and Velawcity of racketeering. Another class action alleges that McClenny Moseley, Apex and Velawcity were engaged in illegal barratry and improper solicitations.
In spite of all this, and being ordered to stop communicating with former clients, Austin Marks says MMA is still attempting contact former clients as recently as last week:
Austin Marks: I sent a discharge letter to McClenny Moseley saying, Back off. Don’t talk to my client. And how do they respond? By sending a courier to the client’s house to sign settlement paperwork to give McClenny Moseley authority to settle the case.
MMA has also attempted to collect legal fees on their former cases, but have begun to withdraw these requests. As for the clients, Marks says in many of the cases MMA didn’t take any action:
Austin Marks: We are finding a lot of these clients still have tarps on their roof, still have damage to the interior homes, and they’ve just been waiting patiently. And then only when we started advertising within the last few months did they realize that there was something wrong with their prior representation.
These cases can be resolved more easily, with a firm like Morris Bart picking up where MMA left off. But in other cases, MMA settled claims and homeowners are still waiting on their money.
Austin Marks: The worst case scenario is the money’s gone. McClenny Moseley in many instances settled these cases without the client’s knowing, took their fees, paid off, whoever they were going to pay off, whether it was adjusters or, you know, their overseas contractors, I don’t even know. But those clients settled those cases six months ago, and they still haven’t seen their money. And so we’re trying to track down the money right now.
Ultimately, Marks says MMA is an example of why mass filing these kinds of claims does not work.
Austin Marks: I think Judge North said it said a couple of things in his hearing that I thought was really important. This is what happens when ego and greed take over. I’ve met these guys, Mr. Huey and Mr. Mosley, and I’ve seen them in court. They are smug. They are unapologetic. They continue to try to defend themselves in light of evidence that is indefensible. The other piece of this is. What we’re learning is that. Lead generation buying up thousands and thousands of cases. Is probably not the right way to practice law. There is an individualized piece to all of these claims.