This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," July 12, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Well, it's getting uglier. There is a nasty new chapter in the ongoing Anna Nicole Smith saga. And tonight, we are closely following the fight between Larry Birkhead in one corner -- Dannielynn's father, of course -- and Debra Opri, his other -- his former lawyer in the other. What's the fight about? Money, lots of it. Right now, it's $591,000 sitting in Opri's client trust account. Opri says all the cash is hers. Birkhead says all the cash is his. Can't be both.
A short time ago in LA, the judge put a freeze on the money. Larry Birkhead's current lawyer, Michael Troop, joins us. Our calls to Debra Opri have not been returned. However, they have just issued a statement to the public, and we'll get to that in a second.
But welcome, Michael.
MICHAEL TROOP, LARRY BIRKHEAD'S ATTORNEY: Good evening.
VAN SUSTEREN: So what's the story? The money was frozen. Let me ask you, are you certain the money exists in the client trust account?
TROOP: Well, we know that as of the end of May, the money was in the client trust account because we have been provided with the ability to observe the bank statements as of the end of May.
VAN SUSTEREN: And what is...
TROOP: What has happened...
VAN SUSTEREN: OK, go ahead.
TROOP: What has happened between -- what has happened between May and today we don't know.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, so there is a fight over the money, and I assume that, you know, Debra Opri wants to be paid for work she did. And there is a dispute as to whether or not she's entitled to it. This is -- originally, she sought to send it to arbitration. What happened with that?
TROOP: Well, the judge didn't make a final determination today. He made a tentative -- call it a tentative opinion that he denied their request for arbitration but has not made a final ruling.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why did he deny it? What's his stated reason? Not to make you jump in his head, but did he give a stated reason why he denied arbitration, since in the contract, whether -- in the contract, it said that the dispute would go to arbitration?
WILLIAMS: Well there were three contracts. There was a retainer agreement signed on September 29 that had a provision. There was a retainer agreement on September 30 that didn't have a provision. And then there's a media consultation contract that was dated on October 1 that does not have provision. And the gravamen (ph) of the dispute right now is whether or not Ms. Opri had the right to obtain possession of the money as a result of the media contract and whether she has the right to retain possession of that money in her trust account.
VAN SUSTEREN: Now, who was is the contract with, the one that Larry Birkhead had? Who was the payor?
TROOP: Well, the payor is a major television network. However, the contract between Mr. Birkhead and the network has a confidentiality provision, so...
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, it's out in the public domain. You don't need to disclose it, but it says Bravo is the one. Here's what I don't get. A check was cut by this network to pay Larry Birkhead, and it ends up going to Debra Opri. Now, did Larry -- did it say payable to Debra Opri and Larry Birkhead, or who was it payable to? Or was it a wire transfer?
TROOP: No, there was no check. It was a wire transfer. Essentially, what happened is that Debra Opri instructed a bookkeeper to send a fax to the agency that was involved in the transaction instructing them to wire transfer the $866,250 into her trust account.
VAN SUSTEREN: And you mean to tell me that some network was silly enough to not -- to take a document without Larry Birkhead's name on it, signature on it, for $866,250, and wire it to someone else's account, without Larry Birkhead signing off, and he's the one that's supposed to be paid?
TROOP: That is exactly right. And not only that, there is a declaration that was filed with the court by the attorney from the agency, confirming that that's exactly what they did.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know what? What fun it would be to file a breech of contract against the network for failure to pay the $866,250 because, apparently, I mean, the contract was between Larry and the network, and Larry never got paid. They sent the money off to someone else. That seems pretty foolish me. What do you think, Michael?
TROOP: Oh, I think that they could theoretically have some problems.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, so if Larry loses with Debra Opri, Bravo, look out. You won't be saying "bravo." You'll be paying some money. Anyway, Michael, thank you.
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