More than two years after Brobeck Phleger & Harrison LLP dissolved, ousted chairman Tower Snow has broken his silence over the firm’s spectacular demise.
Some observers blamed Snow for Brobeck’s dissolution and bankruptcy in 2003. Among other things, critics said his 2002 defection — along with 16 other partners — to rival firm Clifford Chance LLP propelled Brobeck down the road to ruin. They also blame Snow for locking fast-growing Brobeck into expensive office leases that created crushing debt.
Snow, for the first time, has risen to his own defense. In papers filed in San Francisco bankruptcy court, Snow said the firm was financially strong under his leadership and he stressed that he didn’t make decisions on his own. Snow’s legal filings come as part of his battle against a lawsuit designed to recover money for Brobeck’s estate.
Brobeck trustee Ron Greenspan sued 223 former partners at Brobeck, including Snow, claiming they collected $275 million when the firm was insolvent in 2001 and 2002. Brobeck dissolved in February 2003 and was forced into bankruptcy seven months later.
More than 200 former partners have agreed to cash settlements with Greenspan. But about a dozen former partners, Snow included, have decided to fight the suits. Snow, who wants a jury trial, is being sued for $2.74 million, among the highest amounts being sought by Greenspan.
Snow claims that he should not have to repay past earnings to Brobeck’s estate. He got no money from Brobeck after his expulsion from the firm in May 2002, he said in court papers. Additionally, Snow should not be on the hook for any payments since Brobeck’s partnership agreement stated that “a partner that is expelled from the partnership is relieved of any and all partnership obligations,” wrote Snow’s lawyer, Stephen Neal, the head of Cooley Godward LLP.
A representative for Greenspan did not return a call for comment.
Far from being at fault for Brobeck’s spectacular end, Snow said he contributed mightily to Brobeck’s bottom line. Snow, who was Brobeck chairman from 1998 until 2002, billed “well over 3,000 hours” annually, resulting in $20 million in 2000 revenue alone, he said.