By Stan Welch
An Easley attorney, with a long history of litigation against Anderson County, has been allowed to surrender her license to ever practice law in South Carolina again, in lieu of disciplinary action by the appropriate authorities. Candy Kern Fuller submitted a motion to resign in lieu of discipline pursuant to Rule 35, RLDE, Rule 413, SCACR. The ruling on the motion, issued by the S.C. Supreme Court, states that Kern-Fuller ”faces three separate disciplinary complaints related to her role in an illegal scheme of inducing veterans to sell their retirement or disability benefits in exchange for cash payments.
“The first complaint involves a federal lawsuit filed by three veterans alleging Respondent (Kern-Fuller) and others illegally induced the veterans to sell their retirement or disability benefits for a period of months or years in exchange for a lump sum payment. The second complaint was filed by an Arizona life insurance agent who sold to four of his clients military income stream investments that were processed by Respondent. The agent filed a complaint with Disciplinary Counsel after his clients stopped receiving payments, and the agent could not reach Respondent to inquire about the payments. In the third complaint, a South Carolina lawyer represented three veterans who had assigned their military benefits in exchange for lump sum payments in connection with Respondent’s scheme. Each of the veterans defaulted on the agreement to assign their benefits because they learned the assignments were illegal. After Respondent filed suit against each of the veterans in Greenville County, the veterans’ lawyer filed a complaint with Disciplinary Counsel based on her belief the transactions were void from inception pursuant to federal law.”
Kern- Fuller’s adversarial relationship with Anderson County began at a county council meeting after the departure of former county administrator Joey Preston. The late District Two Councilwoman, Gracie Floyd, introduced Kern-Fuller as her personal attorney, during an open session discussion of possible legal actions to be taken in negating the extremely lucrative severance package, which the lame duck council had awarded to Preston in one of its last acts. Ke4rn-Fuller challenged the Council’s authority at that meeting and began a series of legal actions in defense of Preston. Almost a decade would pass, as a legal team, which included Kern-Fuller, and Anderson County gnawed their way through a legal process that cost the county more than a million dollars in legal fees; and ended only when the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed a 2013 ruling in Preston’s favor by Judge Roger Crouch. The Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that Preston’s severance agreement was null and void. Preston is currently employed as the Bamberg County administrator.
In the midst of that decade, in the year 2012, former county councilman Ron Wilson, who voted for the severance package, was indicted and pled guilty to mail fraud in relation to a fifty seven million dollar Ponzi scheme. Eventually sentenced to twenty years in prison, he was recently released to a halfway house, with eventual home confinement and probation to come. Kern-Fuller was involved in the scheme, claiming, along with Preston to have been victims. Federal investigation later revealed that both of them in fact profited from the scheme.
According to information included in the Supreme Court ruling, Kern-Fuller “ has also been involved in several other lawsuits regarding this illegal financial scheme. In 2018, the Securities Division of the Arizona Corporation Commission (Corporation Commission) filed an enforcement action alleging the income stream investments were unregistered securities that were prohibited by federal and state law. Respondent and her law firm were named parties. On November 12, 2020, the Corporation Commission issued an order finding Respondent made, participated in, and induced offers and sales of unregistered securities in violation of the Arizona Securities Act.”
The order described Kern-Fuller’s conduct in the matter as “reckless and unethical” manner and stressed that she and her law firm had continued that behavior despite multiple cease and desist orders from other states which found similar investments violated securities laws in those jurisdictions. The Corporation Commission ordered Kern-Fuller and her cohorts to pay restitution in the total amount of $2,943,438.60, plus administrative penalties in the total amount of $560,000.
Additionally, the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs, and the State of Arkansas filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina against Kern-Fuller, her former law partner, and their law firm alleging various violations of state and federal law in connection with selling veterans’ disability benefits to investors. On January 21, 2021, the federal court signed a stipulated final order and prohibiting Kern-Fuller or her law firm from offering, brokering, or handling virtually any financial services. The district court ordered Kern-Fuller to pay equitable monetary relief, jointly and severally with her former law partner and law firm, in the amount of $725,000. The district court also prohibited the use of customer information, ordered additional monetary provisions, and implemented reporting requirements and other compliance provisions.
In the affidavit attached to her motion, Kern-Fuller acknowledges that Disciplinary Counsel can prove the allegations against her and states she does not desire to contest or defend against those allegations.
The ruling concluded, in part, that Kern -Fuller’s egregious pattern of conduct violated several Rules of Professional Conduct, “ Accordingly, we grant Respondent’s motion to resign her membership in the South Carolina Bar. In accordance with the provisions of Rule 35, RLDE, Respondent’s resignation shall be permanent. Respondent will never again be eligible to apply and will not be considered for admission or reinstatement to the practice of law or for any limited practice of law in South Carolina.”