“He will be exposed . . . ” Don Lewis on Michael Yim (left).
Dan Garner – The attorney who blew the whistle on besieged law firm Pierce Bainbridge is more determined than ever to not only expose those who sought to destroy his reputation but to ensure the culpable parties – and law firms – are brought to account.
Since November 2018, double Harvard graduate Don Lewis has insisted that Putney Twombly Hall & Hirson LLP colluded and conspired with Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP to run him out of his former firm.
Lewis, an ex-partner, is adamant that Pierce Bainbridge weaponized #MeToo in retaliation for Lewis blowing the whistle on the firm and John Pierce.
Lewis (pictured left) was recently vindicated when the firm finally acknowledged by way of an “internal investigation,” which led to a forced leave of absence for long-time managing partner John Mark Pierce, that something was amiss.
The internal investigation was about the type of self-dealing and financial conduct that Lewis had been alleging more than a year ago. This, of course, begs the question of why Lewis’s long-standing and detailed allegations of financial improprieties at the firm were apparently never previously investigated.
Rather than investigate Lewis’s allegations, the partners of Pierce Bainbridge and the firm’s legal representatives from Putney Twombly Hall & Hirson LLP, Littler Mendelson P.C. (S. Jeanine Conley) and Mukasey Frenchman & Sklaroff LLP chose to attack Lewis relentlessly.
In this classic David v. Goliath battle, they characterized Lewis’s allegations as: “concocted,” “preposterous,” “frivolous,” “farfetched,” “manufactured,” “patently false,” “vainglorious soap opera litigation,” “part dime store melodrama,” “part personal manifesto,” and accused him of suffering from “delusions of grandeur.”
The claims in Lewis’s wrongful discharge and proposed defamation complaints, which were supported by texts, e-mails, public records and other contemporaneous documentary evidence, were always of major concern and certainly appeared to be worthy of investigation.
Shady Financial Dealings Exposed
In addition to Pierce’s own partners placing him on leave for financial self-dealing, recent lawsuits against Pierce and the firm, also appear to validate Lewis.
For instance, in a complaint filed in May 2019, Lewis alleged:
This is what others are saying now. The firm stated in May 2019 that “[Lewis’s] allegations of unethical and dishonest business practices. . . if true, would constitute criminal activity” and Pierce was warned by an outside attorney in the Summer of 2018: “[John] [t]rying to…build a major NYC firm overnight is hugely risky…The last person who tried…was Mark Dreier. He ended up in jail.”
The ‘Corruption’ Allegation For Michael D. Yim
When Lewis blew the whistle on financial misconduct and, on Lewis’ claim Pierce Bainbridge then weaponized #MeToo to silence him, the firm needed someone to conduct an “investigation” into what Lewis says were fabricated accusations.
The investigation involved Michael D. Yim of Putney Twombly who is personal friends with Pierce Bainbridge General Counsel Carolynn K. Beck (pictured, right).
(Yim previously practiced at Kelley Drye Warren LLP, Sedgwick LLP and FordHarrison LLP.) Lewis says Beck was complicit in Pierce’s illicit financial self-dealing; an accusation which appears supported by an October 2018 text from the firm’s bookkeeper.
Lewis says “Beck, who knew all along what John Pierce was up to, did nothing in October 2018, and did nothing for the next year and a half. Instead, Beck had her buddy Yim railroad me to cover-up for the financial shenanigans.”
Beck, pictured below with former name partner David L. Hecht and both have been the subject of harsh criticism from their fellow partners. With an apparent Pierce Bainbridge management shift, Beck’s future at the firm would appear uncertain.
The Yim Investigation
Yim was formally tabbed to lead the investigation into a curiously timed allegation of misconduct against Lewis who had just spoken up about financial improprieties and who claimed Yim was playing part in a “charade” and assisting his friend Beck, whose objective was to silence the former partner.
The “investigation” allegedly failed to meet minimum requirements and violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. Lewis has sued Putney Twombly and Michael D. Yim in connection with Yim’s role in the investigation.
His claims against Yim and Putney Twombly are serious, including –
- Buried, manipulated and ignored evidence.
- Were accused by letter of destroying and/or altering evidence, yet never even responded.
- Flatly claimed Lewis was not entitled to “due process;” a requirement in New York State for such investigations.
- Made extortionate threats in an effort to coerce Lewis to resign and agree to a lifetime gag order.
- When that failed, offered Lewis a chance to negotiate (or author) the investigation findings in exchange for his resignation and a lifetime gag order.
- Never provided a time of occurrence for alleged incident between Lewis and a female staffer with no witnesses; when pushed, Yim provided one, Lewis had irrefutable evidence he was not even at the alleged location at the time, then Yim claimed he misspoke; and then later, Yim claimed he never secured a time of incident.
- Yim reportedly belligerently threatened/warned a former Pierce Bainbridge partner not to communicate with Lewis months after Lewis had left the firm.
“Michael Yim thought he could destroy my life . . ”Donald Lewis
Severe Investigation Flaws
A June 2019 Lewis defamation complaint contains a “Staged Investigation” exhibit which throws heavy doubt on the sanctity of the process. Yim and Putney are also taken to task in letters dated November 8, 2018 and July 29, 2019, which detail at length, what appear to be severe flaws in the investigation; here too, Yim and Putney Twombly never responded.
Lewis remarked: “Michael Yim thought he could destroy my life, put his head in the sand, and it would just go away. Like Pierce Bainbridge, Yim banked on the cover of darkness. Yim was wrong. He will be exposed.”
“It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up” is a timeless idiom that seems increasingly applicable to Lewis’s disputes.
The story keeps getting uglier for Pierce Bainbridge and seemingly everyone affiliated with the firm.
Putney Twombly has been sued. Littler Mendelson has been sued. Marc Mukasey has chosen to withdraw. Around thirty attorneys have quit the firm in less than a year. Even John Mark Pierce, at the center of all of this, has been heavily wounded. With the current trend, some might question if “ending up in jail” due to “criminal activity” is far off. Time will tell.
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