Risk Update

Conflicts News — Yelp Alleges Law Firm Side-switch, In-house/External Counsel Conflict Clash, Initial FTC v Amazon Judge Recuses

Yelp wants Google’s lawyers tossed from US antitrust case” —

  • “Yelp and a coalition of news organizations have asked a U.S. judge to disqualify a prominent U.S. law firm from defending Google (GOOGL.O) in the Justice Department’s ad tech lawsuit, saying the firm has a conflict of interest because it previously was their advocate on matters related to the case.”
  • “Yelp and News/Media Alliance, which are not defendants in the litigation but are targets of Google’s subpoenas, argue that law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison should be disqualified.”
  • “Google has subpoenaed service-recommendation site Yelp and the alliance for information to challenge claims it has abused its market dominance for web advertising.”
  • “‘This case involves a major law firm switching sides against former clients’ to represent an alleged monopolist, attorneys for Yelp and the media group told U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema on Friday.”
  • “A spokesperson for Paul Weiss said the ‘firm’s representation of Google is appropriate in all respects.'”
  • “Yelp said it hired Paul Weiss in 2016 for counsel on antitrust issues. The Justice Department’s antitrust head, Jonathan Kanter, was on the Paul Weiss team representing Yelp.”
  • “Google is also seeking information about Yelp’s engagement letters, invoices and bills related to its Paul Weiss ties.”
  • “This month, Brinkema refused a request from Google to block Kanter from leading the case. Google argued Kanter should be barred based on his work in private practice for Yelp and other Google critics.”

Judge assigned to US antitrust case against Amazon recuses himself” —

  • “The judge assigned to the US Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust lawsuit against Amazon.com has recused himself from the case, according to a court document filed on Wednesday.”
  • “Senior Judge John Coughenour was assigned to the case on Tuesday, when the antitrust lawsuit was filed against Amazon in federal court in Seattle. Coughenour, an appointee of Republican former President Ronald Reagan, did not cite a reason for dropping off the case in the court filing.”
  • “The FTC in its lawsuit accused Amazon of abusing its power in the retail market as an ecommerce giant by unfairly giving preference to its own products and punishing merchants that want to sell products for lower prices on other platforms.”

Convera Denies Western Union’s Claims Of Atty Conflict” —

  • “Convera Bidco Ltd. is urging a Delaware vice chancellor to reject Western Union’s attempt to block Convera’s in-house attorneys and counsel from Skadden Arps Meagher & Flom LLP from representing it in litigation over its purchase of Western Union’s business-to-business global payments services, arguing the financial services giant hasn’t shown there’s a disqualifying conflict.”
  • “In a filing Monday [9/18], Convera told Vice Chancellor Nathan A. Cook that The Western Union Co.’s request to have Convera’s Chief Legal Officer Brendan Clegg, other in-house attorneys and attorneys from Skadden disqualified from representing the company in the Chancery Court case “falls short” of the standard to warrant such action.”
  • “Western Union has failed to ‘offer clear and convincing evidence that this litigation is sufficiently related to Mr. Clegg’s prior work for WU such that Mr. Clegg is conflicted,’ the company says.”
  • “Clegg ‘expressly denies having any confidential WU information that would be relevant here (or disclosing any confidential WU information of any kind to anyone),’ the filing says.”
  • “Convera says it’s ‘no surprise,’ as the “substantive issues in dispute in this case” arose after Clegg became its chief legal officer.”
  • “Last month, Western Union motioned to have Clegg, other Convera in-house attorneys and Skadden be disqualified from representing Convera in a contractual dispute over capital reserve payments connected with its $910 million purchase of Western Union’s business-to-business global payments services in 2021.”
  • “Western Union’s motion asserted that there is a conflict of interest involving Clegg, who was formerly its in-house counsel and led its efforts in ‘developing, negotiating and drafting the provisions at the center of this litigation.'”
  • “‘Eight months later he switched sides, becoming Convera’s chief legal officer,’ Western Union said. ‘Clegg is directing Convera’s effort, including its outside counsel, in challenging WU’s interpretation of the very provisions he helped negotiate.'”
  • “‘Notwithstanding WU’s repeated requests, Convera has refused to screen Clegg, causing his conflict to infect and taint the rest of Convera’s legal team as well as its outside counsel at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP,’ Western Union says. ‘Their disqualification is likewise required.'”
  • “But in its opposition Monday, Convera argues the work Clegg did before he left Western Union related to the purchase agreement at issue didn’t involve advising on its ‘salient provisions,’ nor did that work ‘expose him to any relevant confidential information.'”