“. . our culture does not reflect a scintilla of the image we try to project to our . . pro bono partners, clients and potential recruits.”
Dan Garner* Dentons have been faced with criticism that they have engaged in a raft of cultural, management and ethical issues involving their Mid-East offices in serious claims made by employees or partners of the world’s largest law firm, including alleged anti-American factions and an anti-female culture.
This follows the outrageous allegations reported in law blog Roll on Friday last February when they reported that a former CIA consultant was investigating claims that a former Dentons partner penned an anti-US article which accused Barack Obama of faking Osama Bin Laden’s death in order to declare war on Pakistan, among other claims involving sexism, anti-colonial attitudes and Islamic fundamentalism within the MidEast office.
The inflammatory opinion ROF piece (“The Fog of War and the Murder of Osama Bin Laden”) calling Bin Laden’s death “cold blooded murder” with highly sarcastic references to the Rambo-style US Navy Seals who did the job. Dentons hired former CIA operative and a firm consultant, Kevin Hulbert, to investigate the issue for them.
Roll on Friday
The credited author of the editorial shares the same name as a commercial partner in one of Dentons' Middle East offices, and the article also states that the author is a lawyer. The Dentons partner, who worked at a Middle East firm when the article was published, denies it is him. RollOnFriday is not naming him because Dentons' investigation is ongoing. RollonFriday, February 2020
Despite claims from Dentons’ management that ‘repeated attempts’ had been made to contact the RollonFriday sources over the ‘untrue and troubling’ allegations, the ‘anonymous senders’ indicated there had been one such attempt and that they had a mountain of evidence “larger than Everest” of names, details, accounts in respect of the operations at the firm’s Qatar and Jordan offices, among others, and other matters to substantiate their various claims of nepotism, profiteering and other matters, denied and disputed by Dentons.
“..the firm has tolerated “appalling and egregious ongoing misbehavior”
The whistleblowers who wrote the emails to Dentons senior management also claim that a plan to move the Dentons Doha office to Mayer Brown was scuttled when the RollonFriday news regarding activities at the firm broke in February.
Dentons’ Multiple Lawsuits
However, it appears that the anti-Americanism and other issues has done anything but die away.
LawFuel has been provided email correspondence, dated early May, from the same parties who created the ROF Osama Bin Laden ‘storm’, with continued accusations that the firm has tolerated “appalling and egregious ongoing misbehavior” at the firm involving a raft of matters that the authors – the so-called ‘Dentons ME (MiddleEast) Partners‘ – claim includes
- a failure to do basic due diligence to hire a ‘proudly outspoken Osama Bin Laden supporter
- the firm has been working with a ‘greedy nepotist’ in Qatar and Jordan
- the firm has been working with an ‘anti-female polygamist’ and others in Saudi Arabia displaying an overall male chauvinist culture in the region
- ‘good people’ have been terminated while other ‘terrible’ representatives continue in happy employment
- An alleged failure to adjust to the cultural and ethnic situation in the Gulf where the office in Dubai is headed by “an old British white man” (Alastair Young) and in Abu Dhabi by another of similar ilk, Ian Dalley, Nick Simpson in Muscat and Middle East Managing Partner Paul Jarvis
- the firm operates in the Middle East in purported violation of local labour laws, allegedly violating affiliation and other arrangements.
One of the May emails says “. . misbehavior and low morals flows freely and widely in the DNA and culture of our ‘Holy Verelin Empire’ where we think we can operate above the law across the globe as masters and colonial oppressors.”
The correspondence provided also indicates that the unnamed partners require an explanation and apology for the alleged “falsehoods” carried in articles in both The American Lawyer and The Lawyer publications relating to the practices of Dentons in the Middle East.
Dentons said the unnamed partner denied having written the piece, which was written nine years ago, but there are major rumblings from the same offices from an alleged group of disgruntled Dentons employees/partners who have decried the onset of multiple lawsuits against the firm that could have been avoided by respecting local, Middle East laws and the former lawyers and employees of the firm in that region.
Apart from the issues catalogued (above) there have been serious allegations made about financial mismanagement, wrongdoing, poor leadership and a misuse of resources in defending lawsuits that could properly be avoided. The firm, says the memo from apparent employees and/or partners in the Middle East, epitomises the “culture of colonialism” that the firm itself has decried (see below).
Who Are DentonsMEPartners?
LawFuel is unable to report whether the internal communications signed as “DentonsMEPartners” are Dentons partners or employees. Attempts to do so have not clarified the matter but the correspondence and the volume of material relating to specific individuals and the claims about them is detailed, as it is distrubing.
The allegations are multiple and serious and the anonymity of the ‘DentonsMEPartners’ is explained in an email dated April 11 2020 thus
Dentons ‘Ad Hominem Response’
The ‘ME Partners’ decry the so-called ad hominem response from management that targets their anonymity but, they say, “fails to even acknowledge any of the concerns we raise” and criticise the attitude taken by the firm that ‘epitomises the culture of colonialism’ in a country that is ethnically and culturally Arabic.
Reference is also made to the recent ublicity concerning a USD32 million malpractice judgment against Dentons, which is being appealed, and involving the American office’s representation of RevoLaze, the adversary of the Canadian office’s client. Dentons’ Global Chief Legal Officer John Koski wrote to defend the firm’s Swiss verein structure, an effort described by the ME group via email dated March 15 as “tone deaf and lacking in sincerity.”
The same email castigates the global firm management and its “media machine” for celebrating a raft of achievements including Day of Understanding,
The Dentons Concerns
The emails reference senior Dentons management including John Koski, but also others.
They refer to Elliott Portnoy, Joe Andrews, Jeremy Cohen “and the entire global management board” who they stringently criticize for the management of the firm and its practices in the Middle East offices.
They allege that those who attempt to raise issues “is retaliated against in the most vile, illegal and vindictive manner that is contrary to local law, the culture we purport to have and the Global Code of Conduct.”
This, they say, is the reason for their anonymity.
The ‘Targets’ of the Criticism
The parties targeted by the ME Partners communications include those about whom whistleblowing letters have previously been written.
The perpetrators of various alleged transgressions have been permitted to continue “unchecked” at Dentons because they are also profitable rainmakers.
“. . why are the last female and American lawyers no longer working in Riyadh shortly after the complaints were raised?”
Reference is made to the “flawed article” in The Lawyer by Joe Andrews which dealt with the ‘colonial’ manner in which international law firms act, which includes the fact that only a handful of offices do high value work and others are essentially regarded as branch offices.
They reference the lawsuit for tens of millions of dollars taken by Kampala Associated Advocates (KAA) in Uganda when, they say, the firm acted like “raiding and pillaging” “brutal settlers”. The merger did not ultimately proceed.
The criticism of The Lawyer article (above) is specifically selected for brutal criticism, noting that Dentons have transcended the previous “outdated notion that it is still effective for a law firm to treat its own talent in a hierarchical, parochial, colonial and unequal way”.
They allege that the matters raised by Joe Andrews is belied by the firm’s actions and modus operandi in the Middle East, where it operates “in the most imperalistic, cavalier and condescending manner”.
For the Dentons Defence
The response to the email came from John Koski (left) who took issue with the fact that the alleged firm ‘partners’ remained anonymous and should refer their issues via the Dentons Code of Conduct.
Dentons places particularly high expectations upon its partners, he wrote in any email dated April 7 2020 to the ‘anonymous senders’.
The lengthy email labored the point about the firm’s Code of Conduct but failed to address the specifics made in the various allegations from the alleged partners.
As a result, the concerned group then emailed the firm’s UK and Middle East Chief Executive Jeremy Cohen (right) on March 31, noting that he had not afforded them a response, nor an apology to the story published by RollonFriday and saying “. . our Firm’s spokesperson created the false and disparaging narrative that we are ‘troublemakers’ and have not engaged with you despite “repeated attempts”.
On the contrary, the record shows unequivocally that it is you and the team copied here who have refused to engage and communicate,” they wrote disparaging the “laughable” Koski response (below) as well as saying the Mid-East office had “never seen” the firm’s global Code of Conduct.
The March email says the ‘concerned partners’ have had enough of the “waffling, dithering vacillation” of the firm.
“We have had enough of it,” they say. “. . our culture does not reflect a scintilla of the image we try to project to our . . pro bono partners, clients and potential recruits.”
The Dentons’ Issues Remain
The issues raised by DentonsMEPartners appear to remain as the firm grapples with the catalog of alleged issues, including the Osama bin Laden supporter who remains in the firm along with the party in the other offices who they claim attempted to move two offices from Dentons to Mayer Brown.
The other cultural and ethical issues raised by the detailed corrrespondence reflects a fervent desire to hold Dentons management to account. Whether it responds to their satisfaction is an issue that remains at large.
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