How whistleblowing attorney Don Lewis’s astounding accusations about his former law firm have been checked off one by one as the house of cards firm falls
Dan Garner* – Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht has undergone and epic free-fall. Over 60 attorneys have left the firm in recent months, only a few are left. Ex-partner Don Lewis has called Pierce Bainbridge a “smoke and mirrors” operation for over a year. Two lawsuits by cash advance lenders, founding partner John Mark Pierce placed on a forced leave of absence for dealings with a “payday lender,” and an explosive investigatory report by Ryan Boysen at Law360 have validated Lewis’s claims. The firm reportedly has an “estimated $65 million debt” to litigation funder Virage Capital Management. In addition, Pierce’s own written communications support Lewis’s accusations of misogyny from the top.
The saga of Pierce Bainbridge is incredible. We have seen: GOP ties. Objectively shady financial activity. A reported around $65 million debt after just over three years of Pierce Bainbridge operations.
Accusations of the Weaponization of MeToo and “lies under oath” by Pierce Bainbridge partners. Firm founder John Mark Pierce, seemingly immersed in corruption, using phrases such as “total fake news.” Rudy Giuliani, Tulsi Gabbard, Michael Avenatti, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, and CNN’s Don Lemon as clients.
It seems Pierce Bainbridge, many of its partners, and many connected to the firm, including its counsel regarding issues with Lewis, Mega-Law Firm Littler Mendelson, and Putney Twombly, have found themselves in a terrible situation. With respect to Littler and Putney, contemporaneous documents appear to support Lewis’s allegations of foul play.
The story of Pierce Bainbridge seems to have shades of Dreier LLP, where founding partner Marc Dreier ended up both in prison, and widely considered the Bernie Madoff of law firms.
The protagonist in the Pierce Bainbridge story, Don Lewis, told his former partners about much of this nature of misconduct over a year ago. It is a long read, but Lewis’s original complaint with allegations of “smoke and mirrors” and “house of cards”, is shaping up like a veritable break down of the Pierce Bainbridge “playbook” giving rise to the severe and troubling issues being revealed about the firm.
Wall of Silence Cracking & “Pawn in John’s Game”
It appears that former Pierce Bainbridge attorneys are starting to sing. Law360 referenced leaked communications of ex-partner Douglas S. Curran. In addition, solicitation materials for Talon LF, a new litigation fund with strong ties to the firm, have also been leaked. Pierce is listed as the “Chief Investment Officer”, Curran as a “member of Talon underwriting team,” and ex-partner Tom Warren as having “joined Talon.”
The Talon solicitation materials, puzzlingly, appear to contain misleading statement about the Pierce Bainbridge Litigation track record.
Curran, the former Pierce Bainbridge United States Managing Partner, appears to find himself in a particularly unenviable position. Lewis has called out John Pierce’s penchant for “using people;” perhaps such is the case with Curran, a new partner at BraunHagey & Borden. Indicative of Curran’s malleability, ex-firm partner Christopher N. LaVigne stated in 2018: “The problem with Doug is that he doesn’t realize he’s being used as a pawn in John’s game.”
The leaks are growing, as is speculation of potential criminality. One wonders if any such leaks have flowed to disciplinary or law enforcement authorities.
$65 Million Debt and Odd Partner Activity
According to Law360, PB received a $28.5 million infusion from Virage in April 2019. The report suggests Pierce then recklessly threw excessive money at Pierce Bainbridge personnel, which may explain the actions of certain individuals. For example, both Christopher N. LaVigne (Withers Bergman LLP) and Denver G. Edwards (member of the Middlebury College Board of Trustees) are accused of “lying under oath” to smear Lewis. The timing of their alleged lies is noteworthy; the sworn affidavits with purported false statements of fact, were filed by LaVigne and Edwards shortly after the multi-million-dollar cash infusion.
Lewis said: “LaVigne lied under oath, even though he said in writing months earlier Pierce needed to be ‘reported’; and he essentially accused John of stealing money from Pravati, then he lied to protect Pierce. Chris sold out.”
Eric Creizman (Armstrong Teasedale) also appears beholden to the almighty dollar. According to Lewis, LaVigne said he approached Creizman about leaving the firm around a year ago, and Creizman rejected the overture because his financial “deal was too good.”
Another odd player is Chief Financial Officer, the appropriately named Kevin Cash. His firm biography says Cash has “more than 33 years of financial leadership experience as the Chief Financial Officer for Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP and Baker Hostetler LLP and as an Advisory Services Partner with Ernst & Young LLP.” Questions have arisen as to how this could have happened under Cash’s watch. Raising eyebrows, Cash was also hired shortly after the $28.5 million infusion.
Whatever the case may be, it appears Pierce Bainbridge, at best, grossly mismanaged the reported $65 million funding.
And just as Lewis prognosticated long ago, the firm is now collapsing.
Misogyny from the Top
We have previously covered the misogynistic writings of Pierce. Two particularly damning communications, from a “must read” Sanctions Addendum filed by Lewis are below; the “Lauren” referenced is Pierce’s long-time confidante Lauren Schaefer-Green, a defendant a Lewis lawsuit.
Oddly, Carolynn K. Beck (pictured in the screenshot above) – a name-partner, as well as the firm’s ex-firm General Counsel, and a member of the Women’s Leadership Network Communications Subcommittee of National Asian Pacific American Bar Association – appears to have condoned this discourse.
Beck is not alone in standing by Pierce.
S. Jeanine Conley (right) of Littler Mendelson – a member of the (i) Advisory Board of the Urban Assembly School for Criminal Justice, an all-girls school; (ii) Forum of Executive Women; as well as (iii) past president of the Association of Black Women Attorney’s – appears, by her own emails, to have engaged in attorney deceit. Lewis claims Conley did so to further a “defamatory agenda hatched with LaVigne, Edwards and Pierce.” Lewis says Conley’s litigation conduct seemingly conflicts with her public persona; he has referred to the Littler Mendelson partner as a “hypocrite.”
The double Harvard graduate is in litigation against his former partners, Conley, Littler Mendelson, Michael D. Yim and his firm Putney Twombly.
The Truth -v- The Money
According to Lewis: “All of my former partners, as well as Michael D. Yim (Putney Twombly) and S. Jeanine Conley (Littler), supported John Mark Pierce. They apparently were fine turning a blind eye and ignoring my invitation to investigate because they were getting paid handsomely.
The ‘ride or die’ allegiance of Yim and Conley is particularly noxious considering Marc Mukasey of Mukasey Frenchman & Sklaroff, withdrew as counsel for PB citing ethical concerns. None of them have apologized, none of them have showed any integrity, none of them have done the right thing. Their behavior is deeply troubling; it is nice, however, that current factual events show, that unlike them, I was telling the truth all along.”
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