“The Pierce Bainbridge firm has proven to be a cesspool of lies and deceit.” ~ Don Lewis, June 7, 2019
The quote is from a complaint former firm partner Don Lewis filed against Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht LLP last year. The events from the week of March 9, 2020, appear to lend credibility to Lewis’s long-standing and serious accusations in his bitter fight with his former law firm. The brutal news confronting the law firm was so fast and furious it has left many wondering if jail time is on the horizon. It also made firm partner Denver G. Edwards’s judicial concession that Lewis’s allegations of “unethical and dishonest business practices . . . if true, would constitute criminal activity” uncannily prescient.
The Brutal and Bloody Week That Was
The week played out like a combination of A Nightmare on Elm Street meets John Grisham’s The Firm. It mirrored Lewis’s accusations of financial misconduct at the firm.
Lewis’ allegations have been particularly serious. For instance one of his allegations in his complaint said:
“[John] Pierce and [Carolynn] Beck were engaged in financial malfeasance and [Lewis’s] former partners turned a willing blind eye, enabling the same. They ignored their fiduciary duties to Plaintiff and their ethical obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct.”
Another Lewis filing states:
“[T]he pervasive dishonesty from PB, including two partners – LaVigne and Edwards – making knowingly false statements of fact in sworn affidavits – calls the general credibility of the firm into question.”
The seemingly rogue Pierce Bainbridge operations came to a head in embarrassing fashion time after time after time over the last few days.
Here are the lowlights:
John Pierce is Kicked Out of His Own Firm for Illicit Financial Activity. According to The American Lawyer, Pierce was put on leave by his partners for “accepting money from a lender for personal use . . . essentially a pay day lender for small businesses.” The loan involved a “John Mark Pierce Enterprises LLC.” Tom Warren was appointed acting Managing Partner in Pierce’s absence.
First Lawsuit – Pierce Bainbridge, Name Partners, Pravati Capital LLC Sued. A Philadelphia lawyer claimed Pierce Bainbridge “grossly exaggerated” the value of a case to secure money from the litigation funder Pravati Capital LLC and to recruit attorneys. The attorney attached a copy of the Pravati – Pierce Bainbridge funding agreement; the public disclosure of such agreements is exceedingly rare. The complaint accuses the firm of the same type of wrongful behavior for which ex-partner Lewis blew the whistle.
Mark Mukasey of Mukasey Frenchman & Sklaroff Files to Withdraw as Counsel for the Firm. Law360 reported: The Mukasey withdrawal affidavit “stressed New York ethics rules about professional considerations that might require any attorney to drop a case.” The Mukasey withdrawal stands in stark contrast to the conduct of Putney Twombly Hall & Hirson LLP and Littler Mendelson P.C, particularly their partners Michael D. Yim (Putney) and Sylvia Jeanine Conley (Littler). Both law firms, as well as Conley and Yim, are defendants in Lewis’s claims for allegedly engaging in collusion, conspiracy and deceit. (A letter Lewis counsel sent to Yim’s counsel about the “sham” investigation into allegations against Lewis casts Yim in a questionable, if not corrupt, light.)
Second Lawsuit – Pierce Bainbridge, Pierce and John Mark Pierce Enterprises are Sued. A lender based in Erie County, New York, West Coast Business Capital LLC, sued for the firm’s failure to fulfill payment obligations on an upfront loan. Pierce Bainbridge “sold $387,400.00 of future receivables. . . for an upfront sum of $260,000.00.” This last resort transaction in a state of despair aligns with Lewis’s allegations of Pierce “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
An exhibit filed with the complaint claims that Pierce Bainbridge made several payments to West Coast Business and then stopped on February 18, 2020.
Just seven days later, on February 25, 2020, John Pierce entered into a lending arrangement with a pay day type loan entity.
This timing comports with a Lewis court filing which states:
“Events subsequent to Lewis’s illegal expulsion, strongly suggest that Pierce Bainbridge is . . . engaged in a variant of a Ponzi Scheme.”
More Partner Defections
At least three more partners quite this week – Brian Dunne, Conor McDonough and Michael Pomerantz.
A full roster of PB attorney defectors is below.
Are Lewis’s Former Partners in The Know?
The financial improprieties now surfacing from sources other than Lewis raises question of who knew other than the former partner. Given Lewis’s whistleblowing in 2018, his very public allegations thereafter, as well as commentary from LaVigne in 2018 essentially calling Pierce a thief, it does not appear credible that Lewis’ former partners, all with the firm since October 2018 or earlier, were in the dark.
It is particularly hard to believe in the case of those who have March 2019 UCC filings in their names indicating “liability” as “individuals” for a $9,157,072.95 default declared by Pravati.
Below are the current and former partners for which LawFuel has located filings, only Edwards joined after Lewis was gone.
The $9,100,000.00 Million Crew
Certain members of the $9.1 Million Crew have quit. While such individuals, Michael Pomerantz (formerly of Grais & Ellsworth), Caroline Polisi (formerly of Creizman LLC), Eric Creizman (Armstrong Teasedale) and Conor McDonough (formerly of Paul Weiss) may no longer be with the firm, the mess that has been created is unlikely to result in a clean break for those involved.
A happy ending has about the same probability as Pierce Bainbridge “replacing Quinn Emanuel as the next dominant global litigation firm.”
Image courtesy of Law.com
RECENT PIERCE BAINBRIDGE ATTORNEY DEFECTORS
|FORMER PB PARTNER||NEW FIRM or FORMER FIRM|
|Eric Creizman||Armstrong Teasedale|
|Caroline Polisi||(formerly Creizman LLC)|
|Deborah Renner||Renner Law|
|Jeffrey Alexander||Wachtell Missry|
|Jeffrey Newton||Kobre Kim|
|Joan Meyer||Thompson Hine|
|Melissa Madrigal||Armstrong Teasedale|
|Michael Winograd||Brown Rudnick|
|Susan Winkler||Winkler Law|
|Theodore “Ted” Folkman||(formerly Murphy King)|
|Thomas Frongillo||(formerly Fish & Richardson)|
|Yavar Bathaee||Bathaee Dunne LLP|
|Conor McDonough||(formerly of Paul Weiss)|
|Michael Pomerantz||(formerly of Grais & Ellsworth)|
|Brian Dunne||Bathaee Dunne LLP|
|FORMER COUNSEL||NEW FIRM or FORMER FIRM|
|Kristin “Krissie” Darr||(formerly Linklaters)|
|Julie Capehart||BraughnHagey & Borden|
|Matthew Rand||(formerly McKool Smith)|
|FORMER PB ASSOCIATE||NEW FIRM or FORMER FIRM|
|Aaron Gold||Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe|
|Abbye Ognibene||Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro|
|Barron Flood||Herbert, Smith & Freehills|
|Cassie Black||(formerly Sullivan & Cromwell)|
|Clairborne Hane||Kasowitz Benson|
|Elizabeth DeGori||Kirkland & Ellis|
|Minoti Patel||Grant & Eisenhofer|
|Stephen Farrelly||Browne George Ross|
|W. Tyler Perry||Reid Collins & Tsai|
The News on Pierce Bainbridge
Law Firm Pierce Bainbridge sees lawsuits and mass departures
Large scale departures from leading firm
Co-Founder John Pierce Steps down amid accusations of financial impropriety
Attorney Mark Mukasey steps aside from firm represetnation
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