Justices revoke license of attorney who lent money to clients.

Byline: Eric Heisig, eric.heisig@wislawjournal.com

A New London attorney who represented clients in financial trouble exploited those clients' weaknesses for his own benefit and is no longer allowed to practice law, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

Three "financially unsophisticated" couples hired Michael Trewin to handle legal issues surrounding either their foreclosures or possible bankruptcy, according to the court's per curiam decision. The clients relied on Trewin's advice, but ended up being financially hurt when he loaned them money and took their property when they couldn't pay him back.

"Those transactions ultimately resulted in Attorney Trewin acquiring the clients' property and enriching himself at their expense," according to the decision. "It is clear that the public needs to be protected from this type of conduct and that, as the referee commented, Attorney Trewin is unfit to engage in the practice of law in this state."

Trewin's revocation will begin Nov. 7. According to the bar's website, his membership is still active and he is in good standing.

He did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

According to the decision, the couples had trouble obtaining loans from banks and credit unions. Trewin would then lend them money, often with a 12- to 14-percent interest rate, according to the decision. The loans started with "fairly small amounts" and he would continue "increasing the amount of the loans over time as the couples needed additional funds." Often, Trewin would not have the couples sign promissory notes or conflict of interest waivers.

"The referee further found that because Attorney Trewin was not constrained by standard banking regulations, the clients did not receive many of the pieces of information and the warnings that they would have received when borrowing from traditional lenders," according to the decision. "Moreover, there were many errors in the documentation of the loans and the tracking of payments."

Trewin was disorganized, according to court documents, which caused confusion on exactly how much a couple owed him. And the documents that did exist often had errors and omitted information, according to the decision. The information that investigators later requested was often incomplete or could not be found.

When clients fell behind on their payments, Trewin would not call, file a notice of delinquency or a lawsuit. Instead, he would create another loan for the client, with a mixture of...

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