Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Wilson’s Hits Just Keep On Coming

October 20, 2006

When a report on stock option backdating says there is no evidence your law firm did anything illegal or hid anything from investors — much less that your shop invented the practice — you might breathe a little easier.

For Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, though, those positives resembled a disclaimer in a probing publication issued by The Corporate Library, an investor advocate and research firm based in Portland, Maine. (You can get the report online, but it’ll cost ya.)

The report says that Wilson’s multiple roles at companies under backdating scrutiny — i.e. serving as outside counsel while Wilson partners simultaneously sat on the board that awarded stock options to the law firm — could spell trouble for their clients.



Beginning of the End of L.A.’s Detective Scandal?

October 17, 2006

The private eye scandal that promised to devastate L.A.’s legal community hasn’t really delivered: Aside from high-profile litigator Terry Christensen, few of the people indicted for allegedly hiring detective Anthony Pellicano to engage in illegal wiretapping register on the legal radar screen. It’s not so surprising in hindsight that they seem to be the types that we outside L.A. imagine as crowding the margins of Hollywood — people clawing for a buck at the periphery of celebrity.

Over the last few weeks, though, as prosecutors and defense lawyers try to work out a trial date for Christensen — the erstwhile lead partner at the firm now known as Christensen, Glaser, Fink, Jacobs, Weil & Shapiro — rumblings in the L.A. bar have begun about a new wave of subpoenas sent out to attorneys at Greenberg Glusker, one of L.A.’s top firms and the home of Bertram Fields, the famed entertainment litigator.


Will Being Everywhere Get Wilson Nowhere?

October 13, 2006

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati has long profited from being in the heart of Silicon Valley’s business community — and representing a large percentage of the Valley’s most successful companies. Now, plaintiff lawyers are trying to use that seeming omnipresence to kick Wilson out of a high-profile piece of litigation over the still-metastasizing stock option backdating scandal.

In a derivative case against several former Mercury Interactive officers in Santa Clara County Superior Court, lawyers with Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins late last month filed a motion to disqualify Wilson partner Jared Kopel from the case. Kopel represents former Mercury COO Kenneth Klein. The purported conflict, the Lerach firm wrote in a court filing (.pdf), is based on the fact that Wilson also represents Hewlett-Packard, which is close to acquiring Mercury.

Since Mercury has joined in the litigation against Klein and other former officers — and HP will have to decide whether to continue pressing those claims — the Lerach firm says Wilson is in a position to be representing litigants on both sides of the case, and that Kopel’s request to stay the case until the HP merger is complete is a strategy growing out of that conflict. “In light of Klein’s continuous efforts to stall this litigation, it begs the question as to whether Klein, and Wilson Sonsini on behalf of Klein, engaged in these tactics precisely because both knew that the HP/Mercury merger was on the horizon, thus possibly providing Klein with a way out of this litigation without any adjudication of his fault,” Lerach wrote in his brief.

Justin Scheck

Sonsini Is in the House! (Or He Will Be Soon!)

September 15, 2006

Larry Sonsini has been invited, along with Ann Baskins, Patricia Dunn and a Boston PI, to testify before Congress later this month on their various roles in the HP pretexting scandal. The invitations, issued by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, asks them to appear for sworn testimony on Sept. 28.

The letter (.pdf) to the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati partner says, in part: “Given the circumstances surrounding this particular case of pretexting involving the highest levels of corporate governance within Hewlett-Packard Company,” — that’s Dunn — “the company’s general counsel” — that’s Ann Baskins — “and the Board of Director’s outside counsel” — that, of course, would be the ever-busy Sonsini — “I ask that you carefully consider this hearing an opportunity to be fully open and transparent with the testimony you provide.”

The fourth recipient, Ronald DeLia, is the managing director of Security Outsourcing Solutions, the Needham, Mass., firm that the Wall Street Journal has identified in connection with the hacking of directors’ phone records. 

— Greg Mitchell 

HP Crisis is More Fun, Fun News for Sonsini

September 7, 2006

Sure we’d all like the big stock portfolio, nice salary and cowed respect of Silicon Valley’s business community. But it still seems hard to be Larry Sonsini these days. First it was stock options. Then it was more stock options. And even more stock options.

Then this week, stories in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times stuck him smack in the middle of a corporate car wreck that those of us who are uninvolved are going to have some trouble looking away from. The Hewlett-Packard board implosion has all those things we’ve come to expect from a legal monsoon — corporate boards, a leak, eavesdropping. It’s as if Anthony Pellicano came up to Silicon Valley just for entertainment value.


Courts Not Listening to Eavesdrop Concerns?

September 7, 2006

Judging from a decision late last month by a Riverside federal judge, criminal defense lawyers are going have a hard time getting the federal courts to share their outrage over federal prosecutors listening to tapes of their conversations with jailed defendants.

On Aug. 24, Central District Judge Virginia Phillips denied two defendants’ motion to dismiss a murder case arising from a prison brawl on the grounds that prosecutors and FBI agents improperly accessed privileged conversations between defendants and their lawyers. It was one of three California cases — including one in San Francisco — where judges must decide whether attorney-client phone calls are privileged if prisoners know they’re being taped.


Yet Another Screwup Prosecutor Goes Unnamed

August 23, 2006

They’re still at it — appeal court justices, that is, who don’t name misbehaving prosecutors in court rulings.

Last week, Los Angeles’ Second District Court of Appeal omitted the name of L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Nicol Walgren in an opinion reversing a robbery conviction because of prosecutorial misconduct. Instead, the court chose to refer to Walgren as “the prosecutor” 30 times.

That makes at least five times in the last four months that appeal courts in California have chosen to keep miscreant prosecutors’ names out of print. It’s a practice defense lawyers hate and that Chief Justice Ronald George recently told Cal Law might be worth abandoning in the name of fair play.


Video Shows Apparently Drunken Lawyer in Court

August 9, 2006

It’s like watching an insect slowly sizzling under a magnifying glass — except that the bug not only volunteered to be there, but won’t stop moving right into the center of the sunbeam. Oh, and it keeps telling one hilariously flimsy lie after another, with all the apparent sense of shame of Paris Hilton on Red Bull and Vicodin.

(For the record, Legal Pad has no way of ascertaining that the lawyer’s wildly adjustable story consisted of jaw-dropping misrepresentations of fact. We just believe the judge.)


Just Name Prosecutors Who Commit Misconduct

July 20, 2006

[Update: This blog item inspired a front-page story in The Recorder, available at]

What is it about California’s appellate courts omitting the names of prosecutors from their rulings, particularly if they stand accused of committing misconduct?

It happened once again on Tuesday, when San Jose’s Sixth District Court of Appeal left the name of a former Santa Cruz County deputy district attorney out of a 27-page ruling that found he had acted irresponsibly during closing arguments of a DUI and drug possession case.


Pamela Torkelsen Visits Milberg Grand Jury

June 15, 2006

It has long been rumored — and, ahem, reported — that Pamela Torkelsen has been cooperating with the prosecutors looking into class-action giant Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman. On Thursday, that was publicly confirmed when she showed up to testify in front of the grand jury in Los Angeles, we’re told.

Her husband was very close to former Milberg partner William Lerach — John Torkelsen was Lerach’s favorite expert witness and was long suspected of working on a contingency fee — a mouth for hire who got paid based on how well he convinced a jury of Lerach’s arguments. While there’s widespread skepticism about what Torkelsen’s wife might know about the Milberg firm, a source familiar with the Torkelsens said she played a key role monitoring the flow of money through her husband’s business ventures — including the money he made from Milberg Weiss.

John Torkelsen pleaded guilty last year to making false statements in transactions that included government money, which drew him 70 months in a less-pleasant federal institution than he’d (plea) bargained for. Mrs. T also entered a guilty plea in connection with the failed investment fund that tripped up her husband, but hasn’t been sentenced. Prosecutors continue to chase down the Milberg Weiss firm — Bershad, Schulman and the firm have been indicted — and elusive ex-partner Lerach.

Justin Scheck