Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Are you for Fraud or Against it? New laws debated.

The laws of agency are common law principals that date back to before there were any United States. In “olden times” there were no cell phones, no e-mail and no internet. In fact, there were not even any cars or methods of rapid communication. This meant that if you wanted to do business, you had to hire others to represent you since you could only be in one place at one time. Thus, the laws of agency were created out of need and still exist because without laws, people will just rip you off and leave you broke.

Here is a primer on agency in plain English as it relates to real estate. http://www.ired.com/buymyself/agency/970312.htm It is actually pretty much how agency relates to any situation, because, frankly, an agent is an agent. Real estate agents must be licensed and often have their own code of ethics, but although horse dealers are not real estate agents, they still are bound by the laws of agency.

Now we are going to pick a state that is considering enacting laws to cover the sales of horses. Except, we are really not going to be looking at new laws—the laws of agency are already on the books and already apply—we are just looking at extra words so that everybody clearly understands that these ancient rules DO apply to horses because a lot of horses cost more then a house. One of the things these laws do is include attorneys fees so that the person who was just been ripped off for $20,000 does not have to pay $30,000 to try and get her money back. In certain cases of fraud there is a small criminal charge. Like the one that is already there in another section. Nothing new, just the same thing in a different section of the code so its clear that it applies to horses. Judicial clerks could google horse+agency+fraud and find the right code. And if you commit a criminal act, shouldn’t you be punished? Why would anyone argue against that? How does less crime cut into their profits?

These types of laws have already been passed in several states. Life as we know it did not end. The sky did not fall. Things went along pretty much as they had. Now a new bill is being debated for Virginia. Oddly, many are against it. They are against a law that is already the law. The new section’s sole purpose is to make sure its easy to enforce the laws against fraud in horse sales. There is much debate going on, because, I guess, a lot of people are for fraud?

Some of the pro-fraud people will no doubt be very cross with me for being in support of anti-fraud legislation. They will write nasty messages that they will never hire me! Well, that’s OK. See, I am a lawyer. In the best case scenario I can only represent half of all the available clients. I am not Wal-mart. I cannot run all the other lawyers out of business or there could be no lawsuits for me to try. I only have to please a small fraction of the people all the time and I am the one who is suing you if you violate the law, so it’s the other guys business I want anyway. And I practice in SC. We have the toughest consumer protection laws around. If the things these laws addressed were to happen in my state the guilty would not only have to pay me for my services, but all the damages are tripled. I can make much more money suing crooks down here. So, not only is VA not the state were I make my living, but if it were, I would be on the other side. So save the threats of never hiring me for someone who actually cares. If you are pro-fraud, the person you stole from needs a lawyer too. That lawyer still will not be me, but if the pay is high enough, the lawyer will always appear. And we do not scare easy. Frown away.

I grew up in Northern Va. I saw with my own eyes that fraud and theft and deceit were not an uncommon occurrence in the horse business. I certainly saw honest horse people trying to make an honest living, but they had to work 3 times as hard to make half as much then the competition who would lie, cheat and steal. Honest horse folk drop out of the race leaving the pool even more concentrated with the bad eggs. I was told in no uncertain terms that if I wanted to play in the Hunter Jumper world I had to drug horses, cheat clients and do whatever I was told and never say anything was wrong. I didn’t shut up then and I won’t shut up now. It was bad, probably worse then you even know. I saved evidence from those days in case someone, somewhere at some time actually cared enough to do something about the cheaters. The fact I still have those VHS tapes laying around should tell you how bad I thought it was.

However, there were those that worked very hard and did nothing wrong. I do not paint all horsemen with the same brush, but as far as I know the good ones were not pro-fraud then and are not pro–fraud now. I also knew many good and honest horse people who were perpetually broke. Hmmmm.

Next up is the actual proposed code. I assume some of the discomfort about the proposed laws must be due to not understanding it or understanding how it applies. Clearly people that understood it would not be signing their names to petitions to allow fraud. That makes no sense.

1 comment:

  1. I think it is about time someone at least tried to apply normal laws to the conduct in the horse business. We are running all the decent people out of the industry on both the professional and the client side of things, all because the greedy, unethical few poison the well and make it almost impossible for those who behave with integrity to get a fair shake.

    That said, I will be surprised if the laws are applied to this business successfully. It is such a closed group and many of those who are defrauded are reluctant to come forward. Hopefully that will change and clients will begin to demand that business be conducted in a transparent and ethical way... we can only hope.


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