William “Trippe” McKeny was disciplined for various grievances related to his client trust account, many of which involved McKeny’s failure to properly maintain records relating to the trust account. Additionally, McKeny received payments from clients via credit card; these payments were credited directly to the client trust account. The credit card processing fees were debited from the trust account, resulting in entrusted funds being used to satisfy McKeny’s obligations to the credit card processing company, as McKeny had failed to deposit sufficient personal funds to cover the fees. In one instance, McKeny used funds from his operating account—funds that were supposed to have been held in trust for a specific client—to satisfy personal and business expenditures.
Based on the foregoing, the Disciplinary Hearing Commission concluded that McKeny violated various sections of Rule 1.15-2 and Rule 1.15-3 of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 1.15-2 provides the general rules for the safekeeping of client property, and Rule 1.15-3 lists the requirements for records and accountings. The Commission noted that McKeny was “grossly inattentive to his fiduciary obligation to safeguard entrusted funds, thereby creating a significant risk of foreseeable harm to the clients whose funds were entrusted to him.” The Commission suspended McKeny for a term of three years, though McKeny may apply for a stay after serving a one-year active suspension.
Crucial to the Commission’s disciplinary conclusions were the “unique circumstances surrounding [the] case,” including McKeny’s “serious and previously-untreated mental condition,” Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Commission noted that “[u]nder other circumstances, the misconduct in this case would warrant more serious discipline.”
View the full disciplinary order below.