Monday, June 3, 2013

Morgan Lewis Accused of Conflict by Client (Apple, Inc.)

In yet another conflicts story making news in the general press, Morgan Lewis stands accused of an ethical breach. As reported by Ars Technica and several other publications: "Apple, betrayed by its own law firm." --
  • "Court documents unsealed this week reveal who's behind FlatWorld, and it's anything but typical. FlatWorld is partly owned by the named inventor on the patents, a Philadelphia design professor named Slavko Milekic. But 35 percent of the company has been quietly controlled by an attorney at one of Apple's own go-to law firms, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. E-mail logs show that the attorney, John McAleese, worked together with his wife and began planning a wide-ranging patent attack against Apple's touch-screen products in January 2007—just days after the iPhone was revealed to the world."
  • "The whole time she was advised by her husband, a lawyer who had access to reams of confidential Apple data—but who says he never touched it. (Apple doesn't see it that way.) Together, the McAleeses created 'an indirect and covert pipeline' of information pumped to FlatWorld's attorneys according to Apple lawyers. Now Apple wants FlatWorld's law firm, Seattle-based Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, kicked off the case."
  • "McAleese's involvement has become a very big deal, though, and it could get bigger. Apple fired off subpoenas to Morgan Lewis, and the firm—likely desperate to save its relationship with a premier client—worked quickly to get the evidence Apple wanted. Morgan Lewis handed over McAleese's relevant e-mails and files. When Apple had questions about metadata in a letter signed by Jennifer McAleese, Morgan Lewis gave Apple the confirmation it needed. (That letter, seeking to license a patent to someone named 'Michael,' had been edited by John McAleese, user MCAL5094.) That's when Apple started its all-out effort to argue that McAleese's connection to Morgan Lewis should halt the FlatWorld case, at least until FlatWorld gets new lawyers."
As with many of these stories, public opinion can weigh heavily. Legal news site Above the Law weighs in:
  • "I say 'allegedly' not to suggest there’s any question over whether the partner owned the trolling company, but because the partner claims he had no involvement in the decision to sue his firm’s most prominent tech client. Even if he didn’t, it hardly sounds kosher."

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