Risk Update

Lawyer Conflicts News — Conflict Cleared (But Cost Contested), “Secret” Conflict Creates Public Fallout

Gibson Dunn Partner Clears Name in Qatar Hacking Case, No Conflict of Interest Found” —

  • “Zainab Ahmad, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and a former U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor, has denied having a conflict of interest in defense of a man accused of hacking emails on behalf of Qatar by a former fundraiser for Donald Trump… Broidy alleged that Ahmad had a conflict of interest because she had investigated the alleged hacking while working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller. In August, Gibson Dunn withdrew from the defense of Chalker and his company, leading to speculation about a possible conflict of interest.”
  • “In a hearing last October, U.S. District Judge Mary Vyskocil, overseeing the case, expressed skepticism about Gibson Dunn’s withdrawal and allowed Broidy to move to sanction the firm. Gibson Dunn has now filed a motion urging Vyskocil to deny that motion, arguing that the firm acted in good faith and had no conflict of interest.”
  • “Ahmad stated in a sworn declaration that she was not involved in any investigation into Broidy and never learned confidential information regarding any issue relevant to the pending litigation. Gibson Dunn said that Chalker and his company decided to go with a different firm for their defense, not because of any purported conflict of interest but purely based on their business interests.”
  • “Broidy’s lawsuit alleged that Qatar’s government hired Global Risk Advisors to hack his emails, some of which were leaked to the media. Qatar, Chalker, and the company have all denied his claims. In a Feb. 23 motion for sanctions, Broidy’s lawyers argued that Gibson Dunn should pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees they incurred for investigating and prosecuting the potential conflict.”
  • “The case raises important questions about conflicts of interest in legal defense work and the role of former government prosecutors in private practice. Ahmad’s previous work for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, has drawn scrutiny from Broidy’s lawyers and Judge Vyskocil. However, Ahmad’s declaration suggests that she did not work on any investigation involving Broidy or the alleged hacking of his emails.”
  • “Overall, the case underscores the importance of ethical conduct in the legal profession and the need for lawyers to avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest. While Ahmad has denied any conflict, the fact that Gibson Dunn withdrew from the case has raised questions about the firm’s motives and led to accusations of wrongdoing. As the case unfolds, it will be interesting to see how Judge Vyskocil rules on Broidy’s motion for sanctions and whether Gibson Dunn will face any further consequences.”

Partner secretly worked on deal with his firm on opposite side” —

  • “An experienced partner who secretly worked on the purchase of a property where his firm was acting for the seller has been fined £32,000 for a lack of integrity.”
  • “Mr Wright, admitted in 1991, was one of three partners at London firm Ashley Wilson when a fee-earner began acting on the sale of a property for £1.8m. The memorandum of sale listed Mr Wright as acting for the buyer, a friend of his.”
  • “It was then agreed that the firm should not act for both, as there was a potential conflict, and would continue acting just for the seller.”
  • “The buyer moved to South London firm NC Morris, which, unbeknown to Ashley Wilson and the seller, was given instructions for what followed by Mr Wright.”
  • “Two days before completion, NC Morris claimed that the selling agent had misdescribed the property, causing the buyer to offer too much. Ashley Wilson refuted this and, when the buyer failed to complete, served a notice to complete.”
  • “The investigation discovered that Mr Wright had paid the deposit on the property, instructed NC Morris throughout and drove the threatened legal action, at one point telling the fee-earner at NC Morris that the pre-action letter needed to be more aggressive as well as attending conferences with counsel.”
  • “Mr Wright admitted that he had acted where there was an own-client conflict and with a lack of integrity. He also admitting instructing NC Morris to make two payments totalling £53,000 to third parties that were not involved in this or any other transaction.”
  • “In mitigation, Mr Wright offered his ‘sincere apologies’ and admitted his conduct ‘fell below the high standards of a solicitor in practice.'”
  • “The solicitor said he took ‘some responsibility’ for this but said the firm should have advised the seller of its relationship with the buyer, ‘particularly when it was clear to all parties that a dispute had arisen.'”
  • “‘Mr Wright was motivated by his desire to reduce the purchase price of the property to his benefit and the detriment of the firm’s client,’ the SDT [Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal] said. ‘His conduct was in direct conflict with the duties he owed to his firm’s client…'”