Risk Update

Risk News — Inside-trading Conflicts Lawyer Caught & Catches Suspension, Conviction Meets Conflicts Gambit

Former Cozen O’Connor Attorney’s Practice Suspended 1 Year in Pa.” —

  • “Former Cozen O’Connor conflicts attorney William Gericke has been barred from practicing law for one year in the state of Pennsylvania.”
  • “Gericke was charged with violating U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules on insider trading in 2021, having misappropriated information he gained as a conflicts attorney at Cozen O’Connor to help him profit on the stock market.”
  • “Gericke has since settled those charges and was barred from practicing in front of the SEC following an inquiry and investigation conducted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the SEC. He was also fined just over $20,000, double the amount of profit he earned from his trading activities.”
  • “The charges stem from an incident in 2019 in which Gericke received a request for a conflicts check from Liberty Property Trust regarding another real estate firm, Prologis. Liberty Property Trust, at the time a client of Cozen O’Connor, was considering a merger with Prologis. Upon getting the request for a conflicts check and learning of the possibility of a merger, Gericke bought 1,000 shares in Liberty Property Trust, which he then sold at a $10-per-share profit once the merger went through.”

The split between Johnny Doc and his former lawyers is getting messy. He hopes it’s enough to overturn his conviction.” —

  • “The falling-out between John J. Dougherty and the law firm that represented him at his 2021 bribery trial is getting messier.”
  • “And the former labor leader now hopes the dispute could help him overturn his conviction and spare him from a second trial next month on charges he and others embezzled more than $600,000 from their union.”
  • “In recent court filings, Dougherty’s new attorneys argue that the legal defense provided to him by the Center City law firm Ballard Spahr was compromised due to conflicts of interests involving the firm’s other clients, including the cable giant Comcast and Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the union Dougherty led for nearly three decades before resigning as its business manager in 2021.”
  • “They have asked a federal judge to postpone his April 24 embezzlement trial until a hearing can be held to determine whether the law firm’s past representation of both Comcast and Local 98 may have negatively affected the legal strategy deployed by his former defense team led by attorney Henry E. Hockeimer Jr.”
  • “But to overturn his bribery conviction and trigger the dismissal of the remaining charges, Dougherty would have to prove not only that conflicts of interest existed but that he did not waive them and that they so negatively affected his defense that it violated his rights to a fair trial.”
  • “It’s unlikely that Dougherty was completely unaware at the time he chose Hockeimer to be his defense lawyer of the conflicts he is now citing.”
  • “Dougherty’s argument centers on two main points — the most significant, Cinquanto and cocounsel Alan J. Tauber say, being that Ballard Spahr counts Comcast among its biggest clients. Witnesses from the company played a central role in Dougherty’s 2021 bribery trial alongside Philadelphia City Councilmember Bobby Henon.”
  • “Several factors could work against Dougherty’s argument that a conflict of interest existed or harmed his defense.”
  • “It is not uncommon for large law firms like Ballard Spahr to design internal controls when representing clients whose interests diverge. For instance, firms often wall off teams of attorneys representing opposing clients, to avoid even accidental discussion of legal strategies that could give one an unfair advantage over another.”
  • “What’s more, Dougherty and Henon were not charged with defrauding Comcast, so the company is not legally considered a victim in the case. Instead, Comcast executives served as witnesses to bolster prosecutors’ claims that the bribes the labor leader paid Henon defrauded Philadelphia’s citizens of his honest services as an elected official.”
  • “And Ballard Spahr’s ties to Comcast were hardly a secret — especially to Dougherty. David L. Cohen, Comcast’s then-senior executive vice president and the public face of the company in Philadelphia, had previously served as managing partner at Ballard Spahr from 1997 to 2002.”