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PMA’s End Is Near, But Firm Keeps Suing

Despite the fact that the firm will be closing its doors shortly, the PMA Group has filed several lawsuits against its clients in recent weeks for failure to pay a combined $150,000 in fees the firm believes it is owed, and more suits are apparently in the works.

It is uncommon but not unheard of for lobbying firms to file suit against their clients. Van Scoyoc Associates and Cassidy & Associates, two major appropriations lobbying firms, have apparently never sued a client for failure to pay. Court dockets in the Washington, D.C., area include a handful of breach of contract cases brought by other firms against their clients in the past decade, including Holland & Knight, Alcalde & Fay and Akin Gump.

PMA, on the other hand, has filed suit against more than 20 of its clients in the past decade.

PMA’s longtime attorney, Carmen Jacobs, said there is nothing unusual about a company going to court to enforce its contracts.

“That’s the only way to get people’s attention,” Jacobs said. PMA has had “probably over 150 clients over that time” and has filed suit against around two dozen, according to court records. “Averaged out, it’s a couple of people a year,” Jacobs said. “It’s not a big number.”

Sometimes, Jacobs said, “You’ve got to go after people to get your money ... you try to cut people slack and they take advantage of you.”

The FBI raided the PMA Group offices in November and is reportedly investigating whether some of the firm’s campaign contributions were improper.

The firm has provided millions of dollars in campaign contributions, particularly to senior House Democrats, and has secured millions of dollars in earmarks for its clients.

The firm will close its doors at the end of the month, but Jacobs said he is likely to file additional failure-to-pay claims in the next few weeks.

Last Monday, the firm filed two cases in Arlington County court against clients for allegedly failing to pay their fees. PMA is seeking about $120,000 from Windber Research Institute, a medical research facility in central Pennsylvania, and $25,000 from Quallion, a California lithium-ion battery manufacturer.

The week before, the firm had filed a third case against Ohio solar panel manufacturer Xunlight in a lower county court reserved for claims of less than $15,000.

ABC News on Feb. 9 first reported the story about the November FBI raid on PMA’s offices. On Feb. 25, Quallion wrote a terse letter to PMA serving notice of “termination of PMA’s services, effective immediately.”

PMA’s contract with Quallion requires 30-day notice of termination, and the lobbying firm’s suit alleges that Quallion failed to pay its monthly fees for January and February. Quallion executives did not return calls seeking comment for this story and the company has not yet filed a response in court.

The Windber institute did not sever ties with PMA, though “we thought about it,” Chief Administrative Officer James Bates said.

PMA’s suit against Windber alleges that the institute has failed to pay its $13,000-per-month fees since July 2008.

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