Friday, February 20, 2015

A Corny Conflicts Title, A Not-So-Sweet Disqualification


We covered the preliminary ruling late last year, which now has been updated: "Law firm Squire Patton Boggs removed from corn syrup lawsuit after merger" --
  • "A U.S. judge has disqualified newly-merged law firm Squire Patton Boggs from representing a group of U.S. sugar companies suing corn syrup producers for false advertising, saying it had a conflict because of work done by one of the legacy firms for two of the defendants in the case."
  • "U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall in Los Angeles in an order Friday wrote that "no alternative short of disqualification will suffice" over Patton Boggs' work for clients Tate & Lyle and Ingredion Inc before its 2014 merger with Squire Sanders."
  • "The judge noted the hardships the disqualification would cause for the sugar companies and their trade groups, including Sugar Association Inc, American Sugar Refining Inc, Western Sugar Cooperative and C&H Sugar Co."
  • "The ruling gives a glimpse into the types of conflicts created by law firm mergers and by lawyers moving from firm to firm and the complications that can arise."
  • "The conflict was only identified after the deal closed when Tate & Lyle brought the lawsuit and Patton Boggs' previous work for it to the merged firm's attention, according to the ruling. The ruling means the sugar companies will be without lawyers who had already put in 20,000 hours on the case and racked up $12 million in legal fees."
Update: See also detail and commentary about the use (and invalidation) of an advanced wavier in this case, via the Legal Ethics Forum: "One of the two clients had a broad conflict waiver in its retainer agreement with Patton but the court refused to enforce it. This has happened before. Comments to Rule 1.7 and the Restatement recognize broad prospective waivers by sophisticated clients. But judges - not so much. This one was too broad for the judge."

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