A judge rejected the National Rifle Association’s bid Tuesday to file for bankruptcy in Texas, ruling that the audacious move was an attempt to avoid the oversight of New York State Attorney General Letitia James.
Northern District of Texas Bankruptcy Judge Harlin Hale wrote that the NRA’s effort to reincorporate in the Lone Star State was done in bad faith. The once-formidable gun group made the move to gain an improper advantage over James’ office, which is gunning for its dissolution, Hale wrote.
“The court has great concern about this case because its purpose is to avoid dissolution that is being sought as a remedy in a state regulatory action,” Hale wrote.
The NRA has called James’ lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court “an existential threat.” But the judge ruled the law “does not provide sanctuary from this kind of a threat.”
An 11-day trial over the NRA’s bankruptcy bid, which featured testimony by NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, left the judge concerned about “disclosure, transparency, secrecy, conflicts of interest of officers and litigation counsel, and the unusual involvement of litigation counsel in the affairs of the NRA,” he wrote.
James praised the ruling.
“Weeks of testimony have demonstrated that the NRA and Wayne LaPierre simply filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy to avoid accountability,” James said.
“Today’s order reaffirms that the NRA does not get to dictate if and where it will answer for its actions. The rot runs deep, which is why we will now refocus on and continue our case in New York court. No one is above the law, not even one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the country.”
The trial featured shocking evidence of LaPierre’s mismanagement and abuse of money from the NRA’s 5 million members.
LaPierre took luxury trips on a rich friend’s yachts — dubbed Illusions and the Grand Illusion — despite the friend also having a lucrative contract with the NRA. LaPierre used the yachts as a refuge when public outrage surged over school shootings.
LaPierre emerged through evidence as a coddled executive living the high life, surrounded by security.
He’s not, evidence showed, a resourceful, gun-toting man’s man well-versed in the art of self-defense. Videos showed LaPierre couldn’t deliver a kill shot to a suffering elephant after three tries during a luxury hunting trip in Botswana.
He admitted he was outfitted with pricey upscale suits. His wife allegedly had a traveling “glam squad.”
“As counsel for the NRA acknowledged on the record, there were cringe-worthy facts during this trial,” Hale wrote.
The judge was particularly troubled by the lack of communication among NRA leadership before LaPierre decided to file for bankruptcy.
“Excluding so many people from the process of deciding to file for bankruptcy, including the vast majority of the board of directors, the chief financial officer, and the general counsel, is nothing less than shocking,” Hale wrote.
The NRA says it remains financially healthy and launched a “course correction” in 2017 to get its affairs in order.