Risk Update

DQ Dust Ups — Lawyer Disqualification in Joint Defense Matter, Dogecoin + Tesla + Musk + Insider Trading Allegations = Much Mayhem?

Judge Disqualifies Lawyer and Jones Walker Firm From Federal Case” —

  • “A federal district court in Florida disqualified ‘very well respected counsel’ and the partner’s law firm in Miami, over a ‘unique situation’ in a case in which the U.S. government indicted a financial asset manager for his alleged role in a $1.2 billion international money laundering scheme.”
  • “Shohat represented defendant Luis Vuteff over ‘an actual conflict of interest’ involving the attorney’s prior attorney-client relationship with a witness that would ‘jeopardize defendant’s right to effective assistance of counsel.'”
  • “U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Edwin Torres concluded the 31-page order with ‘one final but important point.'”
  • “Torres held that it was not the court’s intent to ‘prevent parties and counsel from entering joint defense agreements in multi-defendant criminal cases,’ since JDAs allow counsel to pool resources in complex cases against the ‘power of the federal government.'”
  • “‘But that beneficial purpose implicates important judicial interests that must be safeguarded. And one such important interest is illustrated by the circumstances involved here,’ the court ruled. ‘A criminal defendant will conclude that defense counsel pursuing a common interest and sharing privileged discussions will do so with the understanding that he or she should not be able to turn around and use those confidences against him, directly or indirectly.'”
  • “Now, the court instructed the defendant, who is facing up to 20 years in prison, that he could retain substitute counsel, given the early stage of the case—disqualification was the ‘most responsible and appropriate remedy.'”
  • “But the court found that Shohat did not commit an ethics violation.”
  • “But the court wrote in the order that the alleged disqualifying conflict arose from the confidences that Shohat obtained from his former client’s brother during a pre-indictment representation that involved a JDA from 2018.”
  • “The U.S. argued that Brother 2 will testify about Vuteff’s role in the same bribery and money laundering scheme, and that the confidences that Brother 2 shared with Shohat during the 2018 JDA precluded counsel from representing Vuteff in the current case, court records show. The U.S. noted that Shohat disclosed the conflict in Vuteff’s case, but still went forward with the representation.”

Dogecoin plaintiffs lawyers move to oust Musk, Tesla counsel after ‘leaked’ sanctions letter” —

  • “On its face, the motion, filed by plaintiffs counsel Evan Spencer of Evan Spencer Law, seeks to disqualify Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Tesla in-house lawyer Allison Huebert from representing either Tesla or its CEO. Right now, Quinn Emanuel and Huebert represent both Musk and the electric carmaker in the securities fraud case.”
  • “Spencer argues that Musk and the company have conflicting interests because Musk allegedly acted alone, mostly through his Twitter account, to manipulate the Dogecoin market. Spencer asserts that Tesla, which he accuses of owning a crypto wallet that sold Dogecoin, might have a cause of action against Musk, making their conflict irreconcilable even though New York allows lawyers to represent companies and their officers concurrently.”
  • “That’s not the most intriguing part of the filing, though.”
  • “A big chunk of the motion is dedicated to Spencer’s rebuttal of a June 15 New York Post story that he attached as an exhibit. The Post story, in turn, describes a June 9 letter to Spencer from Musk and Tesla defense counsel Alex Spiro of Quinn Emanuel, who threatened to seek sanctions against Spencer for filing a ‘demonstrably false’ amended complaint.”
  • “In the June 9 letter, which Spencer also filed as an exhibit to his new motion, Spiro said Spencer was well aware, before he filed a third amended complaint earlier this month, that there was no factual basis for the allegation that Musk and Tesla owned crypto wallets that sold Dogecoin when prices were peaking. Spiro claimed that neither Musk nor Tesla owned the wallets cited in Spencer’s complaint — and that the complaint was fatally flawed because neither the company nor its CEO have ever sold Dogecoin.”
  • “Spencer’s new disqualification motion accused Spiro of leaking his June 9 letter to the New York Post. That conduct, Spencer said, ‘violated a myriad of ethics rules and demonstrated that [Quinn Emanuel’s] continued defense of this case poses a serious risk of trial taint.'”
  • “Spencer said that after the Post story ran, he “needed to perform considerable damage control” with a client who read the article because his client could not believe ‘that Mr. Spiro, who is a partner in Quinn Emanuel and a lawyer for celebrity A-list clients, would lower himself to lying in the press.'”
  • “Spiro’s June 9 letter threatened that Musk and Tesla would sock Spencer with a motion for sanctions under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure if he did not withdraw the amended complaint by June 12. As of Tuesday afternoon, there’s no such motion in the docket.”