Risk Update

Nerd Conflicts Risk — Game of Thrones (Lessons) and Buck Rogers (IP)

Longtime readers are no doubt aware that I am a huge nerd. (Arguments of whether being in the field of risk itself makes that self evident for us all implied but not stated, less I offend any readers.) Thus titles and topics touching culture consistently catch my eye. And these are no exception.

First: “Buck Rogers Publisher’s Heirs Call IP Settlement A Fraud” —

  • “The heirs to the publisher who popularized the sci-fi character Buck Rogers asked a Pennsylvania federal judge on Thursday to revive a case involving a rival family trust, arguing a settlement signed by the woman who claimed to represent their family’s interest was fraudulent.”
  • “Robert Flint Dille and Lorraine Dille Williams said U.S. District Court Judge Wendy Beetlestone should set aside the March 4 settlement and dismissal of a case between the Dille Family Trust and the Nowlan Family Trust over the rights to Buck Rogers, claiming trustee Louise Geer had been removed from that role in February and that the attorney representing Geer had been improperly admitted to the case because of a conflict of interest.”
  • “‘Louise Geer falsely contends that she was trustee of the trust when she and her husband Dan Herman authorized David Kloss’ retention to secretly and immediately thereafter ‘authorize’ the sale of trust assets to the Nowlan Family Trust in a settlement resulting in a stipulation to voluntarily dismiss on or about February 28, 2019,’ the brief supporting their motion says. ‘Mr. Kloss’s ‘retention’ as well as the ‘settlement’ reported to the court, prompting an ordered judgment by dismissal of this action on March 4, 2019, were all undertaken without the beneficiaries’ knowledge, authority or approval, and were antithetical to their interests. As such, the transaction was fraudulent and without force or effect.'”
  • “Geer’s husband also had a conflict of interest and could not properly sponsor out-of-state attorney David Kloss’ appointment to represent the trust in Pennsylvania, the heirs said. Kloss also had a conflict of interest because Herman had represented Kloss’ firm in the bankruptcy action against the trust, the brief said.”

Having almost made it without mentioning Dr. Theopolis, we now turn to a wonderful essay, boldly authored by US General Counsel and Partner at Dentons Edward J. Reich: “Real-Life Lessons For Lawyers From ‘Game Of Thrones.'”

If I were a knight, I would knight him Ser Reich, for such a wonderfully creative and illustrative exercise, which I’ll share some of my favorites from:

  • “But then I got to thinking: What if the various hands, maesters, council members and other advisers were attorneys? What possible lessons can these colorful characters impart to real-life lawyers? As it turns out, a great many. Provided that we assume — just for purposes of this article, of course — that the Model Rules of Professional Conduct were adopted by each of the Seven (ahem, Six) Kingdoms.”
  • Lord Varys. From the outset, the Spider claimed to be loyal to the realm, as opposed to any particular monarch. That’s a noble sentiment, but he didn’t quite convey that to any of the various rulers (or would-be rulers) that he purportedly served. Model Rule 1.13 requires a lawyer representing an organization (or, presumably, a realm) to make clear to the organization’s officers and directors (or king/queen) that the lawyer owes duties to the organization, not the individual. And to the extent that a conflict arose between the interests of the monarch and those of the realm (that is, the CEO and the company), then Varys should have disclosed that and possibly withdrawn from his counsel role. That said, when he finally was forced to come clean, you could say he got ‘fired.'”
  • Ser Davos. This guy switches sides faster than you can say valar morghulis. After first serving as Stannis Baratheon’s hand, he joined Jon, then professed loyalty to Daenarys, then ended up on King Bran’s Small Council.From a conflicts standpoint, we’d have to look at Model Rule 1.9 (duties to former clients) to see whether Ser D would land in hot water again (as if his experience with the wildfire wasn’t enough). While it’s hard to say that the successive representations aren’t substantially related, the better argument against a conflict is that there is no adversity (what with Stannis and Dany being defunct and Jon banished to a place beyond the Wall).”
  • Bronn. This guy also has a serious side-switching problem. But unlike Ser D, Bronn dropped his client (Tyrion) like a hot potato when Cersei offered him a wagon full of gold to off Tyrion and Jaime. Most jurisdictions are pretty clear that lawyers can’t get around a Model Rule 1.7 current-client conflict by dropping the client in favor of a more lucrative one. And his “ownership, possessory, security, or other pecuniary interest” in Highgarden came at the point of a crossbow, not with “fair and reasonable” terms and written disclosure about the advisability of getting “independent legal counsel on the transaction” as required by Model Rule 1.8.”
  • “Lord Baelish. Model Rule 8.4 defines professional misconduct; Littlefinger just perfected it.”

(Now if only some creative soul out there would draft me a version of this for The Expanse… which I recommend for any GoT fans jonesing for a new show…)