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Facing discipline, Lake Oswego lawyer calls it quits

Samwick opts to resign rather than go through Bar Association action

A Lake Oswego attorney has resigned from the Oregon State Bar rather than face discipline for allegedly mismanaging millions in client investments.

Matthew D. Samwick, who practices law through the Oswego Law Group at 460 Fifth St., was under investigation by the Oregon State Bar for allegedly mishandling $3.5 million in business investments.

The allegations stem from a botched business deal made in 2000, when Samwick formed multiple corporations with family and friends as a means of investing in a telecommunications firm.

State officials say Samwick managed money for the investment groups. While moving funds between the groups, they allege Samwick failed to disclose some of the transfers to the other investors, obtain proper consent to move the money and took some of it for his own use.

Samwick is also accused of failing to secure the investments in a trust account and maintain proper records. He is also charged with misrepresenting finances to obtain loans and allowing conflicts of interest in many of his dealings.

Samwick and two of his clients, including one man the state alleges he defrauded, say the attorney is innocent.

But Kateri Walsh, spokeswoman for the Oregon State Bar, said Samwick opted to resign after repeatedly delaying a disciplinary trial.

'The (resignation) that Mr. Samwick signed lays out the allegations and Mr. Samwick chose not to contest that,' Walsh said.

'It was an extremely complicated case to try. We're happy to have it resolved and we feel it's the right outcome,' she said.

Samwick told the Lake Oswego Review he has been at the center of the investigation since investments in telecommunications fell apart eight years ago.

He began building his Lake Oswego practice shortly afterward in 2002 but complaints to the Oregon State Bar from two former investors have dogged him ever since.

Samwick said he decided to end his legal career rather than put his family and friends, who were likely to become witnesses in a trial, through continued turmoil.

'I'm not wired to not fight but there were huge family considerations in continuing the fight and the costs were overwhelming,' Samwick said.

One of approximately six investors allegedly harmed by Samwick believes the state was mistaken to charge him.

'I agree with (Samwick's) side of the story. I went through this process and they got the wrong guy,' said investor Ambrose Calcagno.

Samwick is accused of mishandling $111,000 of Calcagno's money, one of the smaller amounts at issue in the case.

Calcagno said the telecommunications firm was simply in dire financial shape when investors signed on and bitterness among those who lost money led to the charges against Samwick.

'Myself and other people were trying to hold that thing up and it was a bad deal,' he said. 'How many times do you hear about the wrong man being accused? … This is one of those cases.'

Samwick has received six additional complaints about his legal work since beginning his private practice in Lake Oswego. Five of those were ultimately dismissed but he received a caution from the Oregon State Bar in 2003 related to the sixth complaint.

He has until May 26 to wrap up his legal practice and has been banned from future reinstatement to the Oregon State Bar.

Samwick said he plans to sell the Oswego Law Group and move on. Files and records for his former clients are being placed in the custody of Brett Hall, also an attorney with the firm.

The remaining attorneys at the Oswego Law Group will continue their work.