Friday, October 8, 2010

Caveat emptor

Mr. Casson has broken radio silence. He is quoted by AOPA Online as saying:

"I understand there’s some unhappy customers, but those that are unhappy are the ones that did not secure their refund via a lien on their aircraft. That option was always available to them. It’s built right into the fractional share purchase agreement. If our customers didn’t follow through on that option then that’s unfortunate."

In other words, Mr. Casson is saying to his former customers: you had a legal recourse that you failed to avail yourself of. Therefore the mess you find yourself in is your fault, not mine.

(Pardon me for a moment while I conceal my disgust.)

Yes, it is true, we all could have filed liens against the plane, and many of us didn't because we were trusting shmucks who thought that there was an ethic in the aviation community of mutual trust and respect based on our common goal of going up in the air and getting safely back down again. Apparently Mr. Casson conducts himself according to a different ethic, an ethic of free-market capitalism where anything goes as long as you make a buck and don't violate the letter of the law. Actually, whether or not he has violated the law is still an open question, but that is neither here nor there. This is not about the law. This is about how you do business.

The problem with Mr. Casson's business ethic is that he kept it hidden. If people know ahead of time that you're going to, say, embezzle money and then cover yourself by declaring bankruptcy then they can protect themselves. But here's the thing: protecting yourself against being screwed like that has costs associated with it. You have to take the time to read contracts, to file liens, to pay lawyers. It's expensive, and we pilots have better things to do, like making sure the plane doesn't crash. That is not as easy as we make it look. If we had to take the time to make sure that everyone we deal with in this incredibly complex web of services that make up the aviation industry is not trying to pull a fast one on us the whole thing would come to a screeching -- and possibly flaming -- halt.

But all this obscures a much more important question: what happened to the money? If, as Mr. Casson implies, we could all have been made whole if we'd just had the foresight to file liens, then the money to cover us must have been available at some point in the past. Where is that money now? Is any of it lining Mr. Casson's pockets, or financing his new company?

As always, if I have gotten any of this wrong I invite Mr. Casson to contact me and set the record straight. His lawyer has my contact information.


  1. I would like to know where in the contract/purchase agreement does it state that I can place a lien on the registration. In fact, paragraph 2 states that I acknowledge there is no ownership right, title or interest in the aircraft. This makes it pretty clear that I can't place a lien, but I am not a lawyer. I am now out $70K, not the $24K it lists in the bankruptcy documents. Further, they broke the contract by moving the plane from MN to TX without informing me, and selling additional shares without paying me (in violation of paragraph 21). Is this not fraud?

    I have an aviation attorney looking at the contract.

  2. It gets even better than that (or worse depending on how you look at it). Paragraph 18(g) reads:

    Pilot shall not cause or permit, through any act or failure to act, any liens, claims or encumbrances to attach to the Aircraft and Pilot agrees to indemnify OurPLANE for any and all costs incurred in defending against or removing any such lien, claim or encumbrance, including its reasonable attorneys fees.


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