Risk Update

Conflicts Continued — Updates on Crypto Waiver and Talc Dual-judge DQ Motion

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Sam Bankman-Fried to stick with new lawyers despite possible conflict” —

  • “Sam Bankman-Fried, the jailed founder of bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, appeared in court on Wednesday for the first time since his November fraud conviction and confirmed he wanted to stick with new lawyers despite a possible conflict of interest.”
  • “Bankman-Fried, 31, in January hired defense lawyers Marc Mukasey and Torrey Young to represent him through his March 28 sentencing. He could face decades in prison after a Manhattan federal court jury found the former billionaire guilty of stealing billions of dollars from FTX customers.”
  • “At a brief hearing before U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan, Bankman-Fried said he was comfortable hiring Mukasey and Young even though they also represent the founder of bankrupt cryptocurrency lender Celsius Networks, Alex Mashinsky, who has pleaded not guilty to separate fraud charges.”
  • “Kaplan asked Bankman-Fried, who wore a tan jail shirt and chains around his ankles, to describe the possible conflict in his own words. ‘At a high level, they also represent Alex Mashinsky,’ said a clean-shaven Bankman-Fried, whose curly hair has grown longer since his monthlong trial last year.”
  • “Bankman-Fried described Celsius as ‘a firm that the firms I ran had business interactions with.'”
  • “Bankman-Fried told Kaplan he had consulted with lawyers Mark Cohen and Christian Everdell, who represented him during his trial, about Mukasey’s potential conflict. Bankman-Fried said he also had discussed it with Alexandra Shapiro, another lawyer who will handle his eventual appeal.”
  • “Mashinsky, 59, waived his right to a lawyer without any potential conflicts at a hearing on Tuesday before U.S. District Judge John Koeltl. Mukasey and Young said at that hearing that they could fairly represent both Bankman-Fried and Mashinsky.”

Beasley Allen’s Andy Birchfield Faces Evidentiary Hearing on Disqualification” —

  • “Plaintiffs attorney Andy Birchfield will face an evidentiary hearing next month on whether to disqualify him and his firm from the talcum powder litigation.”
  • “Judges in both state and federal courts in New Jersey found that more evidence was needed to determine whether Birchfield and Beasley Allen, based in Montgomery, Alabama, should be disqualified based on an alleged conflict of interest.”
  • “‘Based on the conflicting factual information provided by all parties, this court finds that it cannot confidently decide this issue on the basis of the information contained in the papers,’ he [Atlantic County Superior Court Judge John Porto] ruled in a Jan. 31 order. ‘Therefore, the court finds that an evidentiary hearing is necessary to determine witness credibility and if the defendants met their burden regarding disqualification of Beasley Allen.'”
  • “Porto’s order said both James Conlan, a former partner at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, and Birchfield must testify at the hearing. On Feb. 14, he told lawyers he needed to hold the hearing to determine the credibility of the witnesses, which could also include Johnson & Johnson’s worldwide vice president of litigation, Erik Haas, and one of its key attorneys, Barnes & Thornburg partner James Murdica, in Los Angeles.”
  • “‘I’m looking at, really, narrowing down, zoning in with a microscope, saying, I’m looking at what happened; what went on; why does Johnson & Johnson have these thoughts; what actually happened; what do we have in terms of documentation or is it just testimony; and then I need credibility,’ he said, according to a transcript.”
  • “On Feb. 9, following oral argument on the disqualification motion, U.S. Magistrate Judge Rukhsanah Singh, in the District of New Jersey, agreed that ‘more information is required to determine the issue of disqualification here… Additional information, including credibility determinations, would aid the court in determining whether such a severe remedy of disqualification is appropriate,’ he held.”
  • “The evidentiary hearing would involve both judges and take place in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where Porto is overseeing the talc multicounty litigation in New Jersey state courts.”
  • “The motions alleged that Birchfield struck a partnership with Conlan, a former lawyer with Johnson & Johnson. Conlan now runs Legacy Liability Solutions LLC, which, along with Birchfield, proposed a $19 billion deal to resolve the talc lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson.”
Risk Update

Conflicts Contentions — Furious Conflicts Allegation on Film, CBD Clash Not Chill

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L.A. Firm, Attorney Subject of Malpractice, Breach of Fiduciary Duty Suit for ‘King Fury 2’ Movie” —

  • “A film production company is seeking over $60 million in damages and alleges a Los Angeles law firm and its attorney committed legal malpractice and breached their fiduciary duty while involved in an overseas film production.”
  • “Shanghai-based Creasun Entertainment USA Inc., filed suit against Loeb & Loeb and attorney, Michael Helfant, who is of counsel to the firm, in Los Angeles County Superior Court last week. Creasun claims the defendants failed to diligently represent its interests when the company retained the firm and Helfant to negotiate its financing for the film ‘King Fury 2,’ set to star Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Fassbender, among others.”
  • “Creasun became involved with the production after film producer Alex Lebovici approached Minglu Ma, the company’s chairman, about an investment opportunity in the film. The suit claims Lebovici and the defendants also ‘secretly developed an attorney-client relationship’ which created a conflict of interest when they represented Creasun in negotiations with Lebovici and his business partners.”
  • “When Ma visited Bulgaria for the movie’s production, she claims she learned of alleged fraudulent activity with the film’s budget. Despite only investing $3 million at the time, the film had over $4 million in its account, and producers told Ma it ‘was a simple accounting error,’ the complaint said.”
  • “Creasun’s denied access to real time bank statements for the movie production led it to attempt to obtain an audit of the film’s finances, but the company learned there was no contractual mechanism to enforce its right to access the records, the complaint said.”
  • “After Creasun refused to put more money into the film’s production and faced pressure from Helfant to continue its investment, Creasun and Ma were then sued in a civil action for damages by a German producer. Creasun then filed a cross-complaint against the German producer, Lebovici, and others which resulted in considerable attorney fees as a consequence of negligent legal services from the defendants, the complaint said.”

Investor Wants Fla. CBD Co.’s Atty DQ’d In Fraud Suit” —

  • “An investor in a Florida health goods company asked a federal judge Wednesday to disqualify an attorney from representing a company principal, saying the attorney should instead testify at trial because he knows about relevant contract negotiations.”
  • “Aaron Silberman and his investment firm AMJ Misil AB LLC submitted a motion to disqualify attorney Felipe Rubio from representing defendant Florencia Hane after he failed to appear on her behalf just two weeks before trial. Silberman included Rubio in his witness list for trial because defendants shared his name in an initial disclosure document, saying he had knowledge regarding Silberman’s fraud claims and the drafting of a membership interest purchase agreement in question.”
  • “‘Defendants may not now withhold this evidence at trial under the pretense of attorney-client privilege,’ Silberman argued, adding, ‘here, defendants, the holders of any attorney-client privilege between them and attorney Rubio, have put attorney Rubio’s knowledge at issue as discoverable information through their Rule 26 initial disclosures, thereby waiving the attorney-client privilege as to all related privileged matters on the same subject.'”
  • “In his suit filed in May 2020, Silberman claims he was lied to about Premier Beauty and Health LLC’s CBD products and prospects when its principals, Florencia Hane and Silberman’s uncle Jorge Hane, courted him for his investment and promised him a job.”
  • “Based on the record of evidence, Silberman believed Rubio would testify that he first drafted a member interest purchase agreement between Premier and AMJ that would have allowed Florencia Hane to deposit $100,000 of the investment funds in an account of her choice, according to his memorandum.”
  • “‘Plaintiff AMJ never agreed to that and never signed that initial membership interest purchase agreement drafted by attorney Rubio, but defendant Florencia proceeded to transfer … $100,000.00 of plaintiff AMJ’s investment funds to ‘an account of her choice’ anyway, thereby misappropriating … AMJ’s investment funds,’ Silberman said.”
  • “Because Rubio’s testimony at trial would be adverse to Florencia Hane, Silberman said his disqualification as her counsel is necessary.”
  • “‘Indeed, attorney Rubio’s testimony will, among other things, be adverse to defendant Florencia’s claims that … she did not misappropriate plaintiff AMJ’s investment funds. Consequently, plaintiffs respectfully request that this honorable court disqualify attorney Rubio as defendant Florencia’s counsel,’ Silberman said.”
Risk Update

Law Firm Risk News — Confidentiality, China & Information Access Controls, IP Conflict Called in Copyright Matter

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Alston & Bird Kicked Off California Copyright Case Over Conflict” —

  • “Alston & Bird LLP has been sidelined in a copyright spat between the owner of the My Perfect Resume website, Bold Limited, and rival site operator Rocket Resume Inc.”
  • “Lawyers in the firm’s intellectual property practice group had been representing Rocket, which is defending against Bold’s claims it copied from the My Perform Resume site in a suit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. But that representation ended as Judge Beth Labson Freeman disqualified the firm due to its prior representation of Bold in IP matters over a four-year period from 2013 to 2017.”
  • “Five current Alston & Bird partners ‘had a sufficiently direct relationship with Bold such that the Court may presume that these attorneys obtained confidential information,’ Freeman wrote in an order docketed Tuesday granting Bold’s motion to disqualify the firm.”
  • “Freeman also found that one of the prior Bold matters in which Alston & Bird represented the company was sufficiently similar to the current copyright case to require disqualification.”
  • “Rocket had argued the current litigation was about a Bold database registered with the US Copyright Office in late 2020, more than five years after Alston & Bird lawyers ceased doing work for Bold. The company urged Freeman not to bar two Alston & Bird attorneys, Chaka Patterson and Dana Zottola, who hadn’t been staffed on any of the older Bold matters.”
  • “Zottola hasn’t made an appearance in the case but Rocket said she’s worked as an adviser to the company. She’s also married to Stephen Zimmerman, Rocket’s founder and CEO and a co-defendant in the case, according to the court’s order.”
  • “‘The overlap of factual and legal issues between the prior and current representations indicates that information about Bold’s copyright registration and enforcement practices and its IP portfolio are material to the evaluation, prosecution, settlement, or accomplishment in this case,’ Freeman wrote.”

Latham & Watkins cuts off its Hong Kong lawyers from international databases” —

  • “US law firm Latham & Watkins is cutting off automatic access to its international databases for its Hong Kong-based lawyers, in a sign of how Beijing’s closer control of the territory is forcing global firms to rethink the way they operate.”
  • “The world’s second-highest-grossing law firm has told staff that while Hong Kong will have access by default to China documents, from this month they will not be able to see other content in its international databases unless specifically given permission, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.”
  • “The move underscores the growing difficulties for global companies operating in a city that made its name as an international financial hub. It comes after Beijing introduced new anti-espionage and data laws restricting information flows out of the country.”
  • “Latham & Watkins is now ‘treating Hong Kong as the same as mainland China,’ one of the people said, as US firms grow wary over Beijing’s closer control of the territory. The law firm declined to comment.”
  • “It is already considered best practice to wall off confidential client data, restricting access only to those who need to see it. However, the change will mean staff in Hong Kong no longer have default access even to non-private files from outside China.”
  • “Latham & Watkins is also separating its Hong Kong office database from the rest of Asia — its offices in Seoul, Singapore and Tokyo — to create a new ‘Greater China’ database shared with the Beijing office, the people said.”
  • “‘There’s definitely a concern over the new [Hong Kong security law] . . . that essentially puts Hong Kong data laws on par with China’s,’ the first person added.”
  • “‘What it means is if you have . . . raids in Hong Kong, law enforcement [can only] access Hong Kong and China databases,’ the second person said.”
  • “Beijing’s political crackdown on Hong Kong, with a sweeping national security law imposed on the city in 2020, has silenced dissent, curbed civil freedoms and dented the once freewheeling territory’s appeal for foreign investors and businesses.”
Risk Update

Risk Updates — Latest on Several Past Risk Stories, Law Firm Settlements, Consulting Allegations

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Law firm Proskauer settles trade secrets fight with ex-COO” —

  • “U.S. law firm Proskauer Rose on Thursday [Feb 1] said, opens new tab it has struck a settlement agreement with its former chief operating officer, whom it accused of stealing a trove of confidential information and trying to recruit other firm employees to a competitor.”
  • “As part of the deal, Proskauer Rose and the former executive, Jonathan O’Brien, asked a federal judge in Manhattan to issue an order, opens new tab barring O’Brien and others from using any of Proskauer’s proprietary and confidential information.”
  • “Other settlement terms reached between the firm and O’Brien were not disclosed. Lawyers for Proskauer and O’Brien did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for the firm also could not be reached.”
  • “The settlement ends Proskauer’s year-old lawsuit against O’Brien, who was fired in December 2022 as he was poised to join rival firm Paul Hastings.”
  • “Proskauer alleged O’Brien downloaded 34 gigabytes of data before his planned departure to Paul Hastings. The firm said he took financial performance data, client lists and profitability metrics, compensation records and evaluations of every one of Proskauer’s more than 200 partners.”
  • “O’Brien denied Proskauer’s claims that he planned to take its secrets to another employer. He said he downloaded the data in order to work during a two-week vacation to Mauritius that coincided with his planned final days at the firm.”

Dechert to Settle UK Hacking Claim From Aviation Executive” —

  • “Dechert will pay a multimillion-dollar settlement to resolve a claim in the UK that it participated in an illegal scheme to hack aviation executive Farhad Azima.”
  • “The two sides disagree on how big the settlement will be. Dechert said in a statement it agreed to pay $3.8 million (£3 million) plus Azima’s ‘costs, which have yet to be agreed between the parties or determined by the court.'”
  • “An Azima spokesman, Tim Maltin, said the settlement will come out to nearly $15 million, including $11 million in costs and $3.8 million in damages.”
  • “‘While this substantial payment resolves Mr. Azima’s limited claim in the UK, Mr. Azima will continue to pursue the significant claims he has brought against Dechert and others based on their conduct against him in the US and the damages they caused him there,’ Maltin said in a statement.”
  • “Dechert, a Philadelphia-based law firm with offices around the world, has faced multiple lawsuits from Azima alleging that it participated in an illegal hack of his computer systems while working for one of the United Arab Emirates.”
  • “The accusations center around the emirate, Ras Al Khaimah, which hired Neil Gerrard, once a top white-collar lawyer in Dechert’s London office, in 2013 to aid an investigation into the former head of the emirate’s investment fund.”
  • “Azima, who once did business with the fund, has claimed he became a target of Ras Al Khaimah due to his efforts to publicize its human rights abuses. He was hacked and his emails were dumped online as part of an effort by the emirate to gain leverage in a court spat over a prior commercial agreement, Azima claimed in his US lawsuit.”
  • “His case against Dechert, which is pending in New York’s Southern District, also names Gerrard and one other former Dechert lawyer as defendants. Dechert last June asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing in part that the suit failed to adequately support claims including witness tampering and obstruction of justice.”

Conflict ‘inherent’ for firms with public, private clients: Scyne” —

  • “The PwC spin-off tells a[n Australian] parliamentary committee its mission is ‘purpose over profit’ compared to other big four firms, which have failed to divest their government work.”
  • “Firms that consult for the public and private sector have ‘inherent’ conflicts of interest that cannot be resolved unless they divest their government work like PwC, according to Scyne Advisory director Adrian Loader.”
  • “Mr Loader, who is also the co-founder of Allegro Funds, the private equity investor that purchased Scyne from PwC for $1, said the firm could only be ‘conflict-free’ as a corporation without private clients. “
  • “‘[Scyne] had to be its own corporate, rather than a partnership, and therefore a different legal entity. And it had to be conflict-free from private sector companies, because of the inherent conflict of interest,’ he told a NSW upper house committee into consulting services on Monday.”
  • “When asked by Greens MP and committee chair Abigail Boyd whether this meant there was an inherent and existing conflict of interest in the other big accounting firms – EY, Deloitte and KPMG, which had yet to separate their government consulting arms – Mr Loader said ‘it goes further than that.'”
  • “Mr Loader singled out partners doing work ‘for both sides’ as being ‘where the inherent conflict is.'”
  • “Managing partner Richard Gwilyn told the committee that Scyne’s goal was to carry out ‘for-purpose work in a commercial manner’ and it held itself to ‘different’ standards that would see it refrain from pursuing ‘profit over purpose.'”
  • “‘The ethics frameworks that we’ve put in place we do believe are different in the way in which we have looked at governance, the independent board members that we have in our organisation, and the standard that we are going to try and hold ourselves to is one that is different,’ he said.”
Risk Update

Lawyer Conflicts Allegations & Concerns — $100m Conflicts Allegation, Crypto Conflicts Concerns

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Client Says Kasowitz Benson Torres Owes $100M for Alleged Conflict of Interest” —

  • “Kasowitz Benson Torres was named a defendant in a summons in New York state court Wednesday by a real estate investment client seeking at least $100 million in relief. The Am Law 200 firm and a former partner were allegedly acting in the interest of parties adverse to the client in a real estate development project.”
  • “Kasowitz Benson and partner Douglas Heitner are accused of acting against the interests of client 111 West 57th Investment and affiliated entities throughout the financing of a real estate development project for the benefit of the firm’s longtime clients, including sponsors, managers and developers involved in the project.”
  • “The firm’s allegedly conflicted loyalties, particularly in a 2017 strict foreclosure dispute, led to the loss of an ‘extremely valuable asset’ for 111 West 57th Partners, an affiliated entity of 111 West 57th Investment listed as a plaintiff, according to the summons.”
  • “On Thursday, a representative of Kasowitz provided the following response to the summons. ‘This threatened lawsuit is yet another meritless filing by a serial litigator now on his sixth set of lawyers who has met defeat repeatedly in state and federal court in numerous lawsuits he has filed related to his failed investment in this groundbreaking 57th Street project, including suits against lenders, insurers, partners and now apparently law firms. Kasowitz has never even represented this person, let alone done anything wrong, and will seek sanctions if any complaint is frivolously filed. Indeed, filing a summons and notice with a ludicrous monetary demand in order to seek headlines is itself unethical and improper which we will address in the appropriate forum.'”

US Prosecutors Call for Hearing Amid Potential Conflict of Interests in Alex Mashinsky and SBF Cases” —

  • “The US government raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest in the ongoing criminal cases of FTX and Celsius Network founders Sam Bankman-Fried and Alex Mashinsky on February 6. The area of concern surrounds the legal representatives handling both cases.”
  • “In a court filing, the US government outlined its concerns to Judge Lewis Kaplan in the Celsius and FTX cases and their founders.”
  • “In the document, the US prosecutors requested a Curcio hearing to address a conflict of interests in both cases. The decision ensued upon the identification of Marc Mukasey and Torrey Young as legal counsels representing Celsius Network founder Alex Mashinsky, and Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), the disgraced CEO of FTX.”
  • “The two attorneys were said to have previously filed a notice of appearances for SBF on January 9 and now represent Alex Mashinsky. Given this, the prosecuting team has requested a hearing for the defendants to waive their rights to be represented by the attorneys.”
  • “Additionally, the core objective of the Curcio hearing is for the court to determine the severity of the conflict and how to proceed. The court could dismiss both counsels if a major conflict of interest is identified.”
  • “In the ongoing legal case with the US government, Celsius’ founder Mashinsky has admitted lending funds to FTX subsidiary Alameda Research. In return, Alameda Research paid back these loans using customers’ funds. Given that Alameda Research, FTX, and Celsius are standing trial for criminal charges, US prosecutors have stated that this could present a strong ground for conflict of interest.”
  • “If legal materials could cause rifts between both parties, the current legal representatives will be limited in sharing such information. Both defendants were found guilty of multiple criminal charges involving fraud and promoting unregistered security tokens. SBF is set for a trial sentencing on March 28.”
jobs

BRB Risk Jobs Board — Conflicts/Intake Analyst (Brownstein)

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In this BRB jobs update, I’m pleased to highlight an open role at Brownstein: “Conflicts/Intake Analyst” —

  • After opening its doors in Denver in 1968, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck has since expanded around the country, with 12 offices, 600+ employees and 300+ attorneys and policy professionals nationwide. And with over 50 years in the industry, we’re committed to creating strong relationships with not only our clients, but with each other and our communities. Are you looking for camaraderie, collaboration and a challenge? Are you looking for an environment committed to creating strong relationships and a building a collaborative culture? If so, we want you at Brownstein. We have an immediate need for a Conflicts/Intake Analyst to join our Denver office.
  • The successful candidate will have 4+ years of experience working with conflicts identification and analytical research in a law firm setting. Strong attention to detail and great organizational skills are also required to be successful in this position.

The responsibilities will be varied, and will include the following:

  • Timely processing of conflict of interest searches, accurate conflicts searches and analyzing conflict results
  • Provide guidance and training to attorney and legal administrative assistants regarding conflict resolution and new business intake
  • Maintaining quality assurance of data to facilitate accurate conflict search results
  • Perform document and database management, data entry, and special projects, as requested
  • Continued development of skills, process improvements, and knowledge of the applicable rule regarding conflicts of interest

Experience Requirements:

  • 4+ years of experience in risk, research, conflicts searching, or related experience
  • Ability to learn and utilize specialized internal conflict checking software and multiple software applications and workflow processes
  • Tracking, follow-up, and resolution skills
  • Ability to handle multiple functions in a fast-paced, detail-oriented work environment, and adapt to changes in workflow, processes, and procedures

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck offers a benefits package that includes medical, dental, vision, 401k + match, profit sharing, and vacation/sick/personal time off. Hybrid schedule offered. Brownstein offers a competitive salary (commensurate with experience), ranging from $65,000 – $80,000.

At Brownstein, clients get access to the top legal minds in the industry, powerful policy knowledge, and best-in-class business acumen to solve businesses’ toughest challenges. Brownstein is a law and lobbying firm that has been making moves for more than 50 years to stay at the vanguard of its industry. You’ll find this firm at the heart of many of the most important cases, the most significant deals, and the country’s most pivotal legislation. Brownstein—we’re all in. For more information, visit us at bhfs.com.

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck is an equal opportunity employer.

 

See the complete job posting for more details on the job and to apply for this position.


And if you’re interested in seeing your firm’s listings here, please feel free to
reach out

Risk Update

Law Firm Financial Risk & Compliance — Canadian Client Tax Reporting Rules, AML Compliance Fines in the UK, Sanctions Compliance Concerns

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Hat tip to the GC at a prominent Canadian firm for pointing me to this one (and a reminder to readers that pointers and links are always welcome!): “Tax reporting law faces opposition from B.C. lawyers” —

  • “The Law Society of BC is part of a pending constitutional challenge against amendments to the Income Tax Act; lawyers charge that new reporting requirements infringe on charter rights of solicitor-client privilege.”
  • “Lawyers in B.C. and across Canada are challenging a new law that will cause them to report more instances of client transactions where abusive and aggressive tax avoidance is suspected and introduce penalties, including jail, for not doing so.”
  • “Late last month, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada was granted an injunction against the federal government to delay the implementation of new laws under the Income Tax Act (Bill C-47) designed to further compel lawyers to report such transactions to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).”
  • “Supreme Court of B.C. Justice Lisa Warren granted the injunction on Nov. 24 ahead of a constitutional challenge by the federation, which represents 14 laws societies and more than 141,000 lawyers across the country.”
  • “At issue is alleged state overreach by the attorney general of Canada into the affairs of individuals. Lawyers contest new reporting requirements infringe on the constitutional right of solicitor-client privilege.”
  • “‘Lawyers and other members of the legal profession, owe a duty of commitment to their client’s cause and are also bound by rules of professional conduct to maintain the confidentiality of information received from their clients,’ the federation has stated in an online backgrounder.”
  • “Warren’s judgment found an injunction was warranted as it was apparent there was a serious issue to be tried in court. And before the challenge is heard, implementing the law would do irreparable harm should it be found to be unconstitutional, ruled Warren.”
  • “Warren noted mandatory disclosures of reportable transactions have existed since 2013 but Bill C-47 lowered the reporting threshold and also implemented a punishment for lawyers and other professionals who do not comply — a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for a term of up to 12 months.”
  • “Warren also noted that the new law provides that ‘disclosure is not required ‘if it is reasonable to believe that the information is subject to solicitor-client privilege.’'”
  • “Parliament enacted the amendments to improve the gathering of relevant information to assist the CRA to respond to tax risks. The lack of timely, comprehensive and relevant information on aggressive tax planning strategies is one of the main challenges faced by tax authorities worldwide, including the CRA, the government stated in its response to the injunction application.”

Lawyers temporarily exempted from CRA’s mandatory disclosure requirements” —

  • “Critically for lawyers, the new rules place the onus on every advisor or promoter involved in a reportable or notifiable transaction to make their own separate disclosure to the CRA, rather than relying on a single report from the taxpayer.”
  • “During the parliamentary review process, an exemption was added to the law confirming that disclosure requirements do not apply where it is ‘reasonable to believe that the information is subject to solicitor-client privilege.'”
  • “However, Roy Millen, the FLSC’s lead lawyer, explained that the law forces legal counsel to choose between their own and their clients’ interests. Penalties for non-compliance by advisors could rise to as high as $110,000 plus the value of all fees charged.”
  • “‘The end result is still a requirement for lawyers to report, and the concept of a lawyer reporting on their client is, in our view, in conflict with a lawyer’s duty of loyalty to their client,’ said Millen, a partner with the Vancouver office of Blake Cassels and Graydon LLP.”

SRA imposes near maximum fine for breaching AML rules” —

  • “A firm which failed to check any of the sources of funds for three property transactions has been fined £23,216 – almost the maximum the Solicitors Regulation Authority can impose.”
  • “The sanction was made against Ilford firm TTS Legal Ltd after an investigation into the transactions between 2018 and 2020. The three deals were all financed through mortgages and the clients’ own funds. In the third matter, the firm was instructed by a financial adviser to the client whose identity was not verified by lawyers.”
  • “The SRA found ‘areas of concern’ over the firm’s compliance with money laundering regulations and its code of conduct. TTS Legal had no firm-wide risk assessment in place until January 2020 and no policies, controls and procedures to mitigate the risks of money laundering.”
  • “In one of the property matters, information received from the client was inconsistent with how they were funding the purchase. The firm recorded that a deposit of £185,000 had purportedly been paid to the seller’s solicitor by a previous firm but TTS Legal failed to make any enquiries to verify this payment.”
  • “The SRA said: ‘The firm failed to undertake, evidence or scrutinise source of funds, of significant amounts of money. The firm’s enquiries were limited to the location of the funds, as opposed to identifying how and from where the client got the money for the transaction. This meant the firm was unable to satisfy itself that the funds were not the proceeds of crime.’”
  • “The firm was fined 2% of its annual turnover, reduced by 20% to take account of mitigating factors. TTS Legal must also pay £1,350 costs.”

Hefty fine for law firm owner who relied on 2003 AML manual” —

  • “A former law firm owner who failed to update its anti-money laundering manual since 2003 has been handed a five-figure fine. The Solicitors Regulation Authority said Richard Lionel Jones had breached regulations for ‘longer than was reasonable’ and demonstrated a pattern of non-compliance.”
  • “In January 2020 he completed a declaration on behalf of the firm in response to a request from the SRA, stating that it had a fully compliant risk assessment which took account of information and updates published by the regulator. The form included references to the firm’s customers, the areas it operated in, its products and services and transactions.”
  • “Five months later, the SRA began a forensic investigation and found that the firm had not verified the source of client funds in conveyancing matters.”
  • “There was no firm-wide risk assessment as required by regulations updated in 2017 and the firm’s office manual referred only to 2003 money laundering regulations. No separate money laundering policies were in place, the SRA confirmed.”

SRA writes to over 1,000 firms about poor sanctions compliance” —

  • “The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has written to give guidance to more than 1,000 law firms that admit they do not have basic controls in place to mitigate sanctions risk.”
  • “More than 3,000 firms completed the survey, of which nearly 1,700 did not do, or were unsure if they did, one or more of the following: identify their clients, verify their clients’ identities, check source of funds and check if a client was subject to sanctions.”
  • “The SRA found that more than 1,000 firms had a greater risk of having a client who was a designated person for sanctions purposes because of their areas of work or because they (or their clients) had a connection to a sanctioned country.”
  • “Twenty-six firms had dealt with a matter involving a designated person.”
  • “Juliet Oliver, SRA deputy chief executive, said: ‘Strengthening the financial sanctions regime is an important part of the government’s response to war in Europe, and law firms have to a key role to play.”
Risk Update

Risk Reading — Conflicts is What We Got? Lateral Lawyer Departure Risk, Rules & Ruminations

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Sublime band sues attorneys over business deal losses” —

  • “Members of the band Sublime accused their former attorneys with King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano LLP of legal malpractice for allegedly playing both sides in business deals and pushing the musicians into merchandising deals they claim led to losses of several millions of dollars.”
  • “Sublime’s complaint says King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano breached its duty to Sublime with ‘conflicts galore.'”
  • “It alleges that the firm did not disclose a conflict before representing the band and their one-time manager in the same transactions, in which the firm is accused of favoring the manager in the negotiations.”
  • “It says that they directed the band toward a merchandising deal with another KHPS client without disclosing the conflict or taking Sublime’s merchandise out for bid.”
  • “And it calls out the firm’s Peter T. Paterno, claiming he obtained a producer credit and $30,000 producer fee on a Sublime documentary. ‘To add insult to injury, Paterno felt entitled enough to bill Sublime for negotiating his own ego trip — that is — the time he spent negotiating his own producer credit and producer fee. Thus, KHPS charged Sublime tens of thousands of dollars for legal fees so that Paterno could collect a producer fee, and satiate his ego and need for Hollywood "street cred" with a production credit,’ reads the complaint.”
  • “Managing partner and named defendant Howard E. King responded to an emailed request for comment with a brief statement: ‘Welcome to Fantasyland. Please enjoy the ride.'”

Contract requiring exiting lawyer to pay fee for every client he takes can’t be enforced, top state court says” —

  • “The Colorado Supreme Court ruled Tuesday [Jan 16] that a law firm can’t enforce a contract provision that required departing lawyers to pay $1,052 for each client they take with them when leaving.”
  • “The state supreme court ruled for Grant Bursek, a former Denver associate at Johnson Family Law, which did business as Modern Family Law, Law360 reports. The firm told Bursek that he was required to pay $18,936 when he left the firm with 18 clients.”
  • “The Colorado Supreme Court said the contract provision violated a Colorado ethics rule banning employment and partnership agreements that restrict the right of a lawyer to practice when leaving.”
  • “‘There may be circumstances in which a firm can seek reimbursement of specific client costs when the client leaves a firm to follow a lawyer,’ the Colorado Supreme Court said in its Jan. 16 opinion. ‘But a firm may not require a departing attorney to pay an undifferentiated fee in order to continue representing clients who wish to maintain their relationship with that attorney.'”
  • “The firm had characterized the fee as reimbursement for marketing expenses that were difficult to determine for clients. Bursek signed the agreement in April 2019 and left Modern Family Law in September 2019. Reimbursement applied only to clients gained while Bursek was working with the firm. If he did not pay within 30 days of leaving, the contract said, he would be assessed 1.5% in monthly interest on unpaid amounts.”
  • “States that have adopted ethics rules similar to the one cited by the Colorado Supreme Court have adopted differing approaches to agreements that impose financial costs on lawyers leaving firms.”
  • “The majority view is that any financial burden imposed on departing lawyers is a violation of the ethics rule, the Colorado Supreme Court said.”
  • “The minority view is that financial disincentives to departure are not per se violations of the ethics rule. Instead, disincentive agreements are reviewed based on a balance of interests. On one side are the interests of client choice and attorney autonomy. On the other are a firm’s interest in financial and practice stability.”
  • “The Colorado Supreme Court also endorsed the minority view requiring a balancing approach with a reasonableness inquiry. But in Bursek’s case, the ‘undifferentiated fee’ assessed for clients following the departing lawyer is a violation of the ethics rule, the state supreme court said.”

On this one, Brian Faughnan comments: “Another failed effort to pretend Rule 5.6(a) has no teeth” —

  • “The courts ultimately determined that such a “per client” charge in a set amount was incompatible with the prohibition in the ethics rules on restrictions on lawyer’s ability to practice.”
  • “This outcome is not at all surprising. After all, even though the Colorado Supreme Court decided to align itself with a minority of jurisdictions and conclude that a ‘reasonableness’ analysis rather than a per se prohibition was the right standard, it was easily able to brush aside the notion that such a per client fee could ever be reasonable:”
  • “The fact that the firm in question put such a provision into their contract with the attorney also, sadly, isn’t surprising. The economic issues in law firms and the viewpoint that prevails often that firms should be able to protect themselves from having lawyers leave and take clients with them often pushes lawyers to tread up as close to the line as possible to try to disincentivize something that the rules say is fair game.”
  • “But the fact that the firm decided to file a lawsuit over $18,000 and put their partners at substantial risk of discipline when the associate refused to pay is quite surprising.”
  • “It appears clear from the opinion that they had able counsel to represent them in the litigation, but I am highly curious about whether those lawyers ever got the opportunity to try to talk the firm out of filing such a suit or not.”
Risk Update

Curious (Aged) Conflicts Stories — Longest (5 Year) Lateral Move? Judicial Mentor Allegation Axed (30 Years Old)

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Associate Finally Joins Abraham Watkins, 5 Years After His Move Was Blocked by a Client” —

  • “Trial lawyer Efrain Gonzalez Jr. has joined Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner as an associate in Houston, nearly five years after USA Gymnastics, a client of his former firm, blocked his move by refusing to waive a conflict of interest.”
  • “Gonzalez’s unusual career progression began in September 2018 when Abraham Watkins offered him a position as an associate, and the young lawyer put in his notice at MehaffeyWeber, where he had practiced for about a year and a half. However, USA Gymnastics refused to grant a waiver for Gonzalez, so he could not join the firm.”
  • “Gonzalez filed a petition in 2018 state district court in Harris County, seeking a declaratory judgment that there is ‘no actual or imputed’ conflict of interest based on his previous employment as an associate at MehaffyWeber and potential future employment at Abraham Watkins, which then represented individuals who sued USA Gymnastics.”
  • “Gonzalez sought a court order to restrain USA Gymnastics from impeding his ability to work at Abraham Watkins, including the filing of any motion to disqualify him or the firm in litigation against USA Gymnastics. He alleged in the petition that he attested in an affidavit that he never worked on USA Gymnastics matters.”
  • “However, less than two weeks later, on Dec. 5, 2018, USA Gymnastics filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors and all proceedings in Gonzalez’s litigation were stayed. That lawsuit was dismissed for want of prosecution in 2021. Meanwhile, in 2021, USA Gymnastics agreed to a global settlement in litigation filed on behalf of U.S. gymnasts who were abused by a former doctor. USA Gymnastics’ final plan of reorganization was approved by a federal bankruptcy judge in 2022.”
  • “Gonzalez said he joined Abraham Watkins, because the firm he formed in 2018 had become so busy that he had to hire more lawyers or move to another firm.”

Trump lawyer Alina Habba makes, then backs off, ‘conflict’ allegation against E. Jean Carroll judge” —

  • “Former President Donald Trump’s attorney Alina Habba on Tuesday backed off of a conflict of interest claim against the judge who presided over the E. Jean Carroll defamation trial after Carroll’s lawyer threatened to pursue sanctions.”
  • “Habba on Monday filed a letter with the court citing a New York Post story that said U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan and Carroll attorney Roberta Kaplan, who are not related, had worked at the major law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in the 1990s.”
  • “An unidentified former partner at the firm, which employs around 1,000 lawyers, told the Post that Lewis Kaplan had been ‘like her mentor.'”
  • “Habba told the New York Post that the situation was ‘insane and so incestuous.'”
  • “The article included a quote from Roberta Kaplan’s spokesman Zak Sawyer, who said while they’d worked at the same large law firm, they ‘overlapped for less than two years in the early 1990s.’ The now-judge ‘was a senior partner and she was a junior associate and she never worked for him,’ Sawyer said.”
  • “In her letter on Monday, Habba said, ‘If Your Honor truly worked with Ms. Kaplan in any capacity—especially if there was a mentor/mentee relationship—that fact should have been disclosed before any case involving these parties was permitted to proceed forward.’ She suggested he had violated the judicial code of conduct and that she might use the allegation as ammunition in a request for a new trial.”
  • “She noted she’d had ‘many clashes’ with the judge during the trial and another last year and said he’d been ‘overtly hostile towards defense counsel.’ Her letter suggested the ‘conflict’ might have something to do with his ‘rulings, tone, and demeanor.'”
  • “Roberta Kaplan responded in a letter of her own to the judge Tuesday, saying the ‘allegations are utterly baseless.'”
  • “Roberta Kaplan said the allegation was part of the Trump team’s scheme to discredit the judicial system and suggested that she might seek sanctions against Habba.”
  • “Habba responded with another letter a short time later, saying she hadn’t made any ‘false allegations.'”
  • “‘The purpose of the letter was simply to inquire as to whether there is any merit to a recently published New York Post story which reported on the alleged existence of such a relationship,’ she wrote. ‘Since Ms. Kaplan has now denied that there was ever a mentor-mentee relationship between herself and Your Honor, this issue has seemingly been resolved.'”
jobs

BRB Risk Jobs Board — Conflicts/Intake Specialist (Quarles)

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In this BRB jobs update, I’m pleased to highlight an open role at Quarles: “Conflicts/Intake Specialist (Multiple Offices)” — [Link to Description is Here] and [Link to Application is Here]

  • LOCATIONS: Chicago; Indianapolis; Milwaukee; Naples; Tucson; Madison; Minneapolis; Phoenix; St. Louis; Tampa; Washington D.C.
  • We are seeking a Conflicts/Intake Specialist to process preliminary conflict intake requests for new clients, new matters, lateral attorneys and marketing/RFPs. This position is responsible for reviewing full new client and new matter intakes, assigning client/matter numbers and performing conflict of interest searches.

 

Responsibilities:

  • Manage the flow of documents, information, and data within the department and ensure the integrity, maintenance and improvement of the conflicts information database and related information.
  • Accurately process all new client and new matter intakes received via Intapp Open and verify that the information provided is correct and complete according to established procedures, including, but not limited to, ensuring the proper attorneys are assigned credit, the practice group and area of law are accurate, determining when an engagement letter is required and attaching engagement letter to the request, ensuring pricing and fees are reflected correctly on the requests, determining when an updated or new conflicts check is needed, resolving any issues and problems related to the above, and referring more complex issues to higher-level staff. Position is empowered to return intakes to attorneys and legal assistants and not open until all information is accurate.
  • Verify that all new clients and new matters at finalization stage have been reviewed as needed by Practice Group Approvers and Conflicts Counsel (as applicable) before assigning a new client or matter number.
  • Correctly process all Records requests to reopen client and matter numbers, client name changes, matter name changes, and practice group/area of law changes.
  • Process all Canceled/Declined Intake requests according to established procedures after determining the reason for the cancelation/rejection of the representation. Make any necessary corrections.
  • Answer inquiries related to preliminary conflicts check, new client, and new matter intakes and procedures from attorneys, paralegals/legal assistants and other staff via phone and email.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Qualifications:

  • High School diploma or equivalent required.
  • Minimum of two years of experience in a conflicts/intake department at a law firm required.
  • Experience with IntApp Conflicts and Intake database preferred.
  • Working knowledge of Excel with the ability to filter and sort data, manipulate information into different rows and columns and familiarity with basic formulas.
  • Must be extremely detail oriented.
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills required.
  • Strong time-management, organizational, interpersonal relations, written and oral communication skills required.
  • Internet search knowledge preferred.
  • Familiarity with multiple fields of law preferred.
  • Ability to learn new systems and processes by doing rather than by studying a manual.
  • Ability to work with diverse populations and resolve issues.
  • Excellent sensitivity, confidentiality and judgment when it comes to difficult issues.
  • Strong customer service attitude.
  • Work well under pressure, good problem solver.
  • Ability to work independently.
  • Ability to prioritize multiple duties/issues at once.

See the complete job posting for more details on the job and to apply for this position.

About Quarles

Our team of business professionals — across functions such as finance, human resources, marketing and business development, information technology and office administration — plays a pivotal role in the ongoing success of the firm. Our leadership recognizes this and so do our attorneys. That’s why we’re as committed to your growth as you are to ours. At Quarles, you will be surrounded by colleagues who are focused on the success of the team, who want to see you succeed and who are as persistent and hard-working as you. You will be part of a culture where great people are working to achieve great things, together, and where the contributions of every individual — attorney and business professional — are equally valued.

For more detail, see their careers page.

 

And if you’re interested in seeing your firm’s listings here, please feel free to reach out