According to a new report by The Trace, in partnership with ProPublica and The New Yorker, a former senior NRA compliance employee has accused Bill Brewer, the NRA’s outside counsel for the past year and a half, of obstructing the work of NRA staff members who tried to address the NRA’s financial mismanagement. The allegations include that Brewer attempted to intimidate and silence NRA staff and that he withheld information from NRA board members, all while Brewer’s firm was reportedly charging the NRA $24 million over a 13-month period and over $97,000 per day in the first quarter of 2019.
According to the report, the former director of tax and risk management, accountant Emily Cummins, who worked for 12 years in the NRA’s treasurer’s office, quietly resigned in November “as the group’s internal strife escalated.” In a written statement that began circulating among NRA leadership this month, Cummins identified various concerns and alleged, according to The Trace, “that Brewer obstructed the work of NRA accountants and vastly exacerbated the organization’s financial woes as he charged it hefty legal fees.” According to The Trace,“Brewer’s firm said its work was justified and of the highest quality.”
The statement by Ms. Cummins reportedly laid out a list of allegations regarding Brewer’s legal work and his treatment of NRA staff, including:
- According to The Trace, Cummins alleged that Brewer tried to “intimidate, deceive, and silence NRA staff who were processing his bills while growing increasingly troubled by the organization’s mismanagement, exorbitant spending, and questionable deals involving conflicts of interest.” The piece continues, “former colleagues of Brewer’s, as well as written correspondence obtained by ProPublica, broadly supported her claims.”
- Cummins said: “I witnessed what appeared to be unrealistic and duplicative billing from Bill Brewer […] I witnessed that Bill Brewer himself created a 2018 cash flow crunch by interfering with accounts payable to prioritize paying himself immediately versus other NRA vendors that had been providing goods or services for months without payment, also jeopardizing the NRA’s biweekly staff payroll.”
- According to The Trace, Cummins alleged that Brewer “used information gathered by NRA staff to fit different purposes and to frame a different story to the board of directors” and that Brewer “effectively silenced NRA staff who uncovered issues needing board of directors attention” and “influenced members of the board” by “selectively withholding information relevant to their decision making.”
Brewer, who has “gained a reputation for pioneering unusually aggressive legal tactics” according to The Trace, has found his conduct questioned several times. According to March 2018 text messages and emails from former Brewer employees, several people have accused the firm of unethical behavior and a pattern of disregard for ethical billing and conduct.
Hal Marshall, a former Bickel & Brewer partner, told ProPublica, “Bill’s representation of the NRA is a classic example of ‘servicing the client to death.” Marshall added, “We tried to leave no stone unturned in our cases, and it often yielded great results. On the other hand, the bills were hefty.”