Flag Day Stinks!

Happy Flag Day to you.  June 14 is never a happy day for me.  My own lot really has nothing to do with Flag Day, but rather the date.  Flag Day stands as the annual reminder of certain past events I wish could just stay in the past.  

First, let’s tackle Flag Day itself.  Flag Day is relegated to one of the lesser “holidays” of the year.  Many simply forget about Flag Day completely and wonder why a number of American flags pop up in June until someone declares: “Oh yeah.  It is Flag Day.”  I am not aware of anyone who gets the day off from work for Flag Day.  I am not aware of folks who throw Flag Day parties.  I would wager that if Americans listed their Top Ten Holidays, Flag Day would rarely make the cut.

In fact, Flag Day is technically not a holiday.  In 1916, President Wilson issued a proclamation officially establishing June 14 as Flag Day.  In 1949, Congress established June 14 as National Flag Day, but failed to recognize this patriotic 24 hours as a holiday.

Great dispute exists regarding the origins of Flag Day.  Despite uncertainty as to who initiated Flag Day or where it began, June 14 clearly recognizes the June 14, 1777 Flag Resolution passed by the Second Continental Congress.  That Congress declared:

“Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.

Two early references for a national Flag Day date back to to the 1800s.  In 1861, George Morris of Hartford, Connecticut proposed June 14 as Flag Day to honor the original adoption of the American flag.  The City of Hartford observed Flag Day in 1861 as a patriotic day with prayers for preservation of the Union.  Yet, that 1861 event appears as a “one and done” day with no further annual Flag Day celebration or tradition.

The 1880s witnessed the efforts of the “Father of Flag Day”, Bernard Cigrand.  Cigrand, a school teacher from Wisconsin, proposed an annual observance of the U.S. flag on June 14 to promote patriotism and respect for the flag.  He traveled the region gaining support in newspapers with his proposal.  Cigrand organized his efforts through establishment of the American Flag Day Association and National Flag Day Society, serving as president of both organizations he founded.  Cigrand claimed to have given well over 2,100 speeches in favor of establishing Flag Day.

Others pushed for June 14 a Flag Day, but credit rests with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks who made Flag Day official.  In 1907, the Elks decreed June 14 as Flag Day with every Elks Lodge obligated to observe Flag Day.  President Wilson took note and saw an easy political score with the Presidential Proclamation of Flag Day in 1916.

OK.  So why does Flag Day bother me?  It is another anniversary of sorts in our house.  Actually, it is the anniversary of us moving into this house years ago.  For the record, we love our house.  It is comfortable.  The layout is ideal for us.  It provides all the feelings of warmth and security desired in a house.  Even with the house now way too large as we enter the empty nester phase, moving is not seriously in the cards for consideration.

The June 14 move date itself remains the day of which should not be spoken – but somehow is annually reminded to me.

As with Flag Day history, there exists a marital history regarding moving into this house.  Years and years ago now, when our three boys were ages 9, 7 and 2, we closed on this newly constructed house and arranged to move across town to our new home.  Moving date became set on June 14 which fit perfectly for exiting our former house.  Pre-packing went on for days in anticipation of the arrival of the movers on June 14.  Simply moving across town may not be quite as traumatic as moving across country, but not by much.  The stress and logistical problems apply to each such move.  Managing three boys below age 10 with one still not potty trained just added to the chaos.  But, we were excited and determined, at least until late in the afternoon of June 12.

At that time, I worked as the in-house counsel for a global manufacturing company with responsibilities extending to all litigation matters around the world – with 90% of all litigation in the United States.  Among the myriad of litigation cases pending at that time was a “wage and hour” class action case in Puerto Rico.  The company operated four factories on the island with the class action seeking in excess of $50 million for alleged improper calculation of work time for employees.

Puerto Rico was then, and remains today, a worker-friendly venue for claims against U.S. companies doing business on the island.  As one trade off for the amazing tax breaks for the corporations, the Puerto Rico legislature took care of the Puerto Rico employees through these worker-friendly laws.  That fact, combined with amazingly complex Puerto Rico wage and hour laws, provided many “gotcha” traps even for those employers who genuinely sought to comply with all laws and regulations.  Oh, and plaintiffs’ lawyers would be awarded substantial attorneys’ fees if even a single violation could be established in a wage and hour dispute.  These cases were free money for the plaintiffs’ bar.

The ultimate exposure for the company would not be the $50 million as demanded, but a realistic exposure range extended well into 8 figures.  Prior settlement efforts through mediation proved fruitless.  Ultimate case outlook appeared rather poor for the company.

Late on the afternoon of June 12, I received a call from the court-assigned mediator “instructing” that mediation would resume the morning of June 14.  Now, the mediator was a retired federal judge so he felt it well within his rights to “instruct” (i.e., order) the mediation to resume in less than 48 hours.  I explained my moving conflict and gently and carefully reminded the mediator the he cannot compel us to proceed, especially on such impossibly short notice.  The mediator tolerated no such pushback and bluntly told me I had to be in Puerto Rico the day after next.

I actually liked the mediator.  While he was on the island for decades, we shared a strong Boston connection.  Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. 1st Circuit federal court system which includes Massachusetts.  The mediator began his days as a federal judge in Boston and was later transferred to Puerto Rico.  Our professional circles intersected in Boston where we found quite a number of common friends and interests.  The mediator looked as tough as a Boston “Southie” and acted as a gruff Ernest Borgnine.  He cared not about our personal connection or conflict and told me to be there, on time, as there arose a substantial breakthrough.

I promptly informed my boss, the General Counsel (GC), of this dilemma.  The GC called out for his assistant to immediately make travel plans for us both to Puerto Rico.  The GC saw opportunity in the mediator’s vague assurance of a breakthrough and wanted to be involved to place this risk behind us.  He met my suggestion that he fly solo on this settlement mission with laughter noting that only I knew the facts and I possess at least some understanding and appreciation of the bizarre Puerto Rico laws.  Also, the GC reminded me that I was a licensed mediator myself and I know how to resolve cases.  Oh, great, to be so needed.

The news of my valued legal expertise and skills to settle cases did not go over so well at home.  Sorry, Honey.  Instead of packing to get ready to move, I will leave you with three young children to fly off to a tropical island.  Oh, and I cannot be here for the big move day we planned for weeks.  Do you think you can give me a ride to the airport?

June 14 arrived with me in Puerto Rico at mediation in the old courthouse.  The mediator was correct in estimating the appetite of the plaintiffs’ counsel to settle.  The week before, the plaintiffs’ firm rather surprisingly lost a significant case it had on contingency fee.  The law firm lost millions of dollars in expenses it put up in that case.  Local legal gossip had this firm disbanding due to that loss.  These lawyers desperately and quickly needed something in the “win” column.  Enter our wage and hour case.

The mediator used 100% of his Ernest Borgnine charm in beating down the plaintiffs’ lawyers.  They caved fairly quickly but advised that the lead plaintiffs possessed expectations which could preclude agreement.  The mediator “ordered” those plaintiffs to appear at the mediation after lunch.  They complied.

The mediator explained that the plaintiff lawyers did a great job in securing the best offer and advised the plaintiffs to accept the offer.  A few holdouts remained.  In a surreal scene out of a Quinton Tarantino movie, the mediator instructed the holdouts to carefully consider the offer without interference.  The mediator knew of the spot for careful consideration – the former jail cells in the basement of the old courthouse.  As he placed the plaintiffs in the jail cells, the mediator instructed them that when they were ready to accept the offer, they can call back upstairs to us.  Surprise!  We reached full agreement for pennies on the dollar.

We wrapped up settlement details fairly well into the evening and returned to the hotel.  The GC inquired where we could get some food at this late time with the desk clerk advising that only the rooftop Mexican bar and restaurant was still open.  To the rooftop to celebrate our victory!

We each had a margarita to celebrate stealing a settlement and dodging a litigation bullet.  The tequila provided enough courage to allow me to call home to see how the big June 14 move progressed.  Despite sitting in 80 degrees with a tropical breeze, it felt quite chilly when the phone was answered.  I sounded genuinely sorry and recognized the thin ice I needed to traverse.  As the chill began to defrost ever so slightly, a strolling Mariachi band struck up a tune at the next table.  The GC then shouted over the music to the bartender instructing him to bring us two more margaritas.

Click.  The call ended and June 14 became a day of infamy in our house.

Each year since then, I make no mention of Flag Day or June 14.  Each year since then, I am reminded of my spousal shortcomings associated with our move into our house.  The good news is that after all these years and all the blessings in this house, our own little Flag Day is met with slightly more humor each year.  This year, I was reminded that the anniversary of moving into the house is Flag Day, but I cannot celebrate until June 15 as I did not arrive at our house until that date.  We are making progress!

In estate planning, every client brings their own Flag Day.  Everyone has their own circumstance they made special or unique for themselves over time.  You can celebrate such events through a memorial or remembrance gesture in your estate plan.  Or, as in my case, you can simply hope that instead of raising Flag Day to a federal holiday, your own Flag Day gets forgotten and its name should never be spoken. 

She’s Really, Most Sincerely Dead

Estate Planning Memphis TN

“As Coroner, I must aver,

I thoroughly examined her.

And she’s not only merely dead,

She’s really, most sincerely dead.”

With those lines, the Coroner of Munchkinland declared the death of the Wicked Witch of the East.  Even in Oz, home of flying monkeys, good and bad witches, live scarecrows, animals who can speak and travel on journeys, as well as horses of different colors, medicine and science still retain their footings.  The Munchkinland Coroner opined on the Witch’s demise only after thorough examination.  The “most sincerely” finding of death could probably be attributed to dramatic effect or showmanship.  Yet, only examination of the physical proof allowed the Coroner to reach firm conclusions.

Apparently, in a world away in Australia, coroners need not follow this Ozian requirement of proof or evidence to reach a determination that someone is dead.  On May 23, 2023, after Coronial Inquest, New South Wales Coroner, Elizabeth Ryan, concluded that Melissa Louise Caddick is dead.

Last seen on November 12, 2020, Melissa Caddick left her house in the early morning without her purse, cell phone, car keys or any other possessions except the workout clothes and sneakers she was wearing at that time.  Known to exercise in her Sydney suburban neighborhood of Dover Heights, these circumstances, standing alone, may not appear alarming.

No one has heard from Melissa Caddick since that November morning.  Nearby closed circuit monitoring systems and video camera systems on neighborhood houses provided no leads.  No witnesses could be located who saw Melissa jogging or even in the area.  Melissa Caddick most sincerely disappeared.

Melissa Caddick’s husband, part-time DJ and part-time hairdresser, Anthony Koletti, waited over thirty hours to report his wife’s disappearance to the authorities.  While his story changed repeatedly over time concerning his actions during this 30 hour window, Tony clearly remained so unconcerned that he went to a friend’s house the night of the disappearance to smoke pot.  Tony failed to mention to his buddy that Tony’s wife never returned from her early morning workout.

Days passed.  Weeks passed.  Weeks turned into months with no word from, or sighting of, Melissa Caddick.  The big break for authorities came in February 2021 when a rotting foot still inside a sneaker washed up on a beach over a hundred miles away from Sydney.  The sneaker matched the description of those last worn by Melissa with DNA testing proving the foot also belonging to her.  At the recent Coronial Inquest, experts testified that prominent currents and tides could carry the foot south from Sydney toward the beach where it washed ashore.  Nothing else, clothes or other dislodged body parts, have ever been found of Melissa Caddick.

Absent foul play, how could Melissa Caddick vanish with no trace except, of course, her foot?  By all accounts, 49 year old Melissa and Tony enjoyed a happy second marriage to each other.  Melissa doted on and adored her 20 year old son.  Melissa traveled in high society circles enjoying an extravagant lifestyle funded by her ultra-successful personal wealth investment company.  Apparently, the DJ and hair dressing business of her hubby did not offer much to the fiscal bottom line of their blessed union.

Of course, there was the little matter of the investigation by the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC).  The day before her Houdini disappearing act, ASIC raided Melissa Caddick’s suburban home on suspicion that Melissa misappropriated 23 million USD from investors with ASIC pointing out that Caddick operated without any necessary financial license.  Oops.

Melissa Caddick held herself out as having advanced degrees in finance from the University of Technology Sydney.  She operated her investment firm for years.  Among her numerous clients who contributed significant sums were family members and close friends.  Her firm provided monthly statements to clients confirming trades and gains in their accounts.  Melissa was a fixture in the investment community.  She hobnobbed with the wealthy and elite, partaking in all charitable causes du jour.

However, the prestigious University later confirmed it possessed no record of Melissa Caddick ever attending classes and no record of her attaining any degree in finance or any field of study.  Caddick did, nonetheless, enroll in secretarial classes and a business administration course at Patrick’s College Australia, Sydney.  Prior to opening her investment firm, Melissa worked in a branch office of an investment bank as an office administrator.  Six months into that position, the bank let her go after Melissa forged the signature of her boss to misappropriate $2,000.

Melissa Caddick did land a position as financial advisor with Wise Financial Services, a subsidiary of ING, in 2003.  Caddick’s success as an advisor served as her springboard to a 25% stake in the Wise firm and appearances on the cover of an Australian financial trade magazine.  Her investments for clients at Wise fell afoul of investing compliance rules.  The training Caddick received in secretarial classes did not prepare her for the complex compliance rules for financial investments.  Caddick and Wise parted ways with Wise buying out her 25% stake.

Melissa Caddick used these funds to establish her own investment firm.  This money funded her marketing efforts to solicit more funds from family and friends.  Returns well outpaced the markets and other investment firms.  Word traveled quickly of the financial rewards of investing with Melissa which appeared without downside risk.

Sound familiar?  Recently, we encountered another who modestly exaggerated about his educational background.  Instead of finance degrees from the University of Alabama, he secured a BA in Political Science from Hofstra.  He started his investment firm trading over the counter penny stocks mostly for family and friends.  He never properly registered himself or his firm with the SEC.  He issued fake statements every month to his clients showing investments and returns which continuously beat the market and other investment outfits.  He freely duped family and friends for more investment dollars.  His lifestyle grew to be lavish as he spent his free time with the upper crust of society.

This fraudster, Bernie Maddoff, and Melissa Caddick shared one more thing in common: each operated a pure Ponzi scheme where no money of their clients was ever invested, but rather funneled to Maddoff and Caddick to fuel their personal excesses.  In fairness, there were also distinctions.  Maddoff swindled about $64 billion while Caddick played in the minor leagues stealing only $23 million.  Maddof also served as Chairman of NASDAQ while Caddick explained away her lavish lifestyle as being funded by a sexual harassment lawsuit settlement.

Back to the Coronial Inquest and declaration of death of Melissa Caddick. . . .  The physical evidence consisted of one foot.  No security video or closed circuit images of Melissa Caddick on the morning she disappeared or after could be located.  An expert testified that Caddick could survive without her foot.

After the Coronial Inquest, Coroner Ryan concluded that Caddick was dead, but that the Coroner could not determine how Caddick died.  In Oz, the Munchkinland Coroner connected the dots between a house falling from Kansas and the demise of a witch.  The New South Wales Coroner expressly stated that no determination of death could be assigned to Caddick.  No body has been recovered.  Life could continue sans foot.  How could this determination be reached?

Clearly, Melissa Caddick possessed incentive to disappear in November 2020.  Her Ponzi scheme unraveled the day prior.  She faced life in prison.  She would have to face all those from whom she stole.  She still possessed substantial assets at that time and could afford a getaway.  She possessed the greatest impetus to run, even running on one foot.

Melissa’s husband, Tony, would also benefit with Melissa’s disappearance.  The extravagant lifestyle could not continue on a hair dresser’s income, but it could if secretly financed by the vanished Melissa.  Or worse, Tony could have been involved in Melissa’s missing status due to his nefarious actions.  As the widowed spouse, Tony could gain financially.

There also remains the Melissa Caddick suicide theory.  Disgraced, Caddick could have thrown herself off the Dover Heights cliffs into the ocean with her foot remaining after she became shark bait.  While not expressly ruling out suicide, the Coroner discounted the theory as videos monitored the areas and Caddick’s images should have ben captured.

As to loving husband Tony, the Inquest focused much attention on him.  Tony inconsistently explained what he did for the the 30 hours before he reported Melissa missing.  The Inquest concluded that Tony possessed vital information and “awareness” regarding Melissa during this 30 hour window, “but chose not to disclose it” as he presented as an “unreliable witness.”  Tony’s lawyer claimed that Tony was simply too stupid to understand questions asked of him with this stupidity causing inconsistency in responses.  The Inquest determined that Tony’s obvious “lack of intellectual sophistication” did not impede his ability to be candid.  At least the tribunal could make that ruling based on actual evidence.

What leap of faith existed between the possibility that the resourceful and resource rich Melissa Caddick faked her own demise and a legal declaration of death absent physical evidence?  Caddick possessed personal jeopardy and certain financial disaster providing her great incentive to arrange for her own disappearance.  Lose a foot to gain freedom and live off anything still hidden from authorities?  A missing foot?  Come on.  That guy competed in the Olympics running on those blades and he has no feet.  Who cares that he is now serving jail time.  His crime was murder.  Melissa only “borrowed” some funds from friends and clients.

Coroner Ryan pointed to the following as a critical factor in concluding that Caddick is deceased: there have been no known attempted communications by Melissa Caddick with her son since November 2020.  That’s it.  The woman who could avoid jail for life, avoid restitution, avoid the shame and humiliation of the criminal process, and financially prosper all with her disappearance must be dead as she has not sought to speak with her son.  Melissa Caddick, the woman who stole $1.2 million from her own parents in this Ponzi scheme, has not reached out for her boy.  Therefore, she must be really, most seriously, dead.

Wow.  My Mom passed away 21 years ago.  I wish she were still with us.  However, in those two plus decades, never once did my mother speak to me.  I was her favorite so it is I with whom she would seek to communicate.  But, nothing.  I must therefore admit, based on the reasoning of the New South Wales Coroner, that my own mother is officially deceased.  That kangaroo logic supports the death determination for Melissa Caddick.

I do not espouse or support whacky conspiracy theories about Melissa Caddick and her whereabouts.  More likely than not, she committed suicide or her husband arranged for her demise.  The ultimate conclusions of the Coroner are most probably correct.  I take exception with the manner of reaching the conclusions.  For each considered avenue, the Coroner found that evidence fails to support the hypothesis, with the unstated alternative that Melissa Caddick remains among the living.  Yet, the Coroner only then ironically and officially opined that Melissa Caddick is deceased.

In proper and comprehensive estate planning, we address the Melissa Caddick conundrum.  If a person disappears for 30 days or more, certain documents take effect to authorize trustees or attorneys-in-fact to address your affairs.  Your loved ones need not wait years for a formal Inquest in order to be able to follow your instructions and wishes.  Your own circumstances may not be as complex as Melissa Caddick, but you might suffer an illness or accident which renders you unable to manage your affairs.  These agents can promptly step in without any further action or court proceeding to address issues for you and your estate. 

Further, these same documents should include “slayer” provisions to ensure that in the event you meet unfortunate circumstances due to your own hairdresser, DJ spouse, that spouse can never benefit from your estate.

However you proceed, do not leave your fate to the New South Wales Coroner:

“The foot washed up out of the ocean blue.

As Coroner, after Inquest, I still had no clue.

Hubby is suspicious, but dumb in the head.

I give up, so I just declare her dead.”