Risk Update

Conflicts News — Chevron Allegation, Ex-client Clash

Donziger Says Seward & Kissel May Have Chevron-Related Conflicts” —

  • “Steven Donziger, the suspended lawyer who is facing criminal contempt charges stemming from his long fight with Chevron over environmental contamination in Ecuador, has asked a federal judge to force court-appointed prosecutors at Seward & Kissel to disclose any ties their firm has to the oil giant.”
  • “In a Tuesday letter to U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska of the Southern District of New York, Donziger’s lawyer, Andrew Frisch, said his research led him to believe that an unnamed Seward & Kissel partner served on Chevron’s board and that the firm served clients who do business with Chevron or related entities. He said Glavin ‘has declined to answer my questions about Seward’s ties to Chevron.'”
  • “In a response filed later Friday, Glavin said it was simply not true that any Seward partner had been on Chevron’s board. As to the allegation that its clients had done business with Chevron, she wrote, ‘even if true, this creates no conflict or conflicting loyalty for the prosecution team in this criminal case.'”

O’Melveny defeats conflict allegations in trial court; trustee for ex-client vows appeal” —

  • “A bankruptcy trustee for Aletheia, an investment manager once entrusted with more than $2 billion in assets, had brought malpractice and breach of duty claims against O’Melveny, asserting that the law firm failed Aletheia by simultaneously representing the company and its CEO in litigation alleging misconduct by the CEO.”
  • “The trustee’s conflict allegation is at the heart of the case, although some coverage of the litigation in front of Judge Snyder has highlighted the easy-to-understand assertion that the arbitrator who exonerated O’Melveny, former federal judge Gary Feess, was biased because the case impacted the career prospects of his son. Feess’ son, a law student when the arbitration was under way, had signed up for on-campus interviews with O’Melveny and Gibson Dunn. When Aletheia’s trustee raised the issue of potential bias with Feess, both Gibson and O’Melveny told the arbitrator that they would refrain from hiring his son out of an abundance of caution.”
  • “The trustee’s lawyers told Judge Snyder that the firms’ refusal to hire Feess’ son could only have exacerbated any bias because the arbitrator would hold the firms’ actions against the trustee. Judge Snyder swatted away those arguments, concluding that the original interviews didn’t require Feess to recuse himself and that the trustee’s subsequent assertion that the arbitrator held a grudge was ‘unpersuasive.'”
  • “But the whole matter of the arbitrator’s son is a red herring. The more important issue in this case is whether O’Melveny betrayed Aletheia by representing both the company and its CEO in litigation in which another investment manager, Proctor, accused Aletheia of breaching a sales agreement.”
  • “It’s important to remember as you consider the complicated facts of this dispute that Feess, a retired federal judge, sided entirely with O’Melveny after a three-week hearing. And Judge Snyder rejected the trustee’s argument that Feess’ arbitration decision manifestly disregarded the law or contravened the public policy against conflicted representations. That said, the case raises tough questions.”