Earlier this month, The Am Law Daily reported on how Manatt, Phelps & Phillips has become embroiled in a Jamaican political controversy thanks to a contract to lobby U.S. officials in connection with unspecified "treaty issues" while the two countries spar over the extradition of an alleged Jamaican drug lord.
The story took a new turn -- and got a bit murkier -- last week when a Jamaican cabinet minister who doubles as a leader of the ruling Jamaican Labour Party announced that he had determined that the party, not the government, hired Manatt -- an explanation disputed by the firm and contradicted by documents filed with the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Karl Samuda -- the JLP's general secretary and Jamaica's minister of industry, investment and commerce -- said unnamed party members asked Kingston attorney Harold Brady to tap "his wide network of international contacts" last September in an effort to "resolve what had become a treaty dispute between the U.S. and Jamaica."
That dispute involves Jamaica's refusal to hand over Christopher "Dudus" Coke, a 40-year-old Kingston businessman indicted last August in the Southern District of New York on charges of conspiracy to distribute drugs and illegal firearms in Jamaica and New York. Authorities describe Coke, the son of notorious Jamaican gangster Lester Coke, as the longtime leader of a criminal gang called the "Shower Posse" and one of "the world's most dangerous narcotics kingpins." (Click here for a documentary on the Shower Posse.)
Despite treaties between the two countries covering extradition and mutual legal assistance, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding has refused to deliver Coke to the U.S., stating that he believes wiretap evidence cited in the indictment was illegally obtained. Golding's political foes in the opposition People's National Party claim his intransigence is actually a product of close ties between Coke and the JLP. Aiming to quell the controversy, Golding directed Samuda earlier this month to investigate how Manatt was hired -- and who paid the firm $49,000 for its services.
Samuda answered the first question, but not the second one. He acknowledged that the point of approaching Brady was to secure his help in the "opening of discussions between U.S. Authorities and the Government of Jamaica." Nonetheless, Samuda maintains the JLP alone was responsible for retaining Manatt: "The Government of Jamaica did not enter into any contractual arrangement with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and therefore no payments were made to the firm by the Government of Jamaica."
Samuda's statement is at odds with the official record as reflected by Manatt's FARA filings. Those documents state clearly under the heading "name of foreign principal" that the firm's client during the four months the $400,000 agreement was in effect was the "Government of Jamaica through Harold C.W. Brady of Brady and Co."
Manatt general counsel Monte Lemann II reiterated that position last week in the following statement to The Am Law Daily: "As stated in the FARA filing, Manatt was employed by the Government of Jamaica, through Harold C.W. Brady to assist with existing political and economic matters including existing treaty agreements between Jamaica and the U.S." Lemann and Manatt declined to elaborate.
WHO IS HAROLD BRADY?
In addition to the conflicting accounts about who exactly hired Manatt, there is another unusual aspect to the firm's Jamaica pact: it is the only one of 11 Manatt has registered with Justice over the past 20 years in which a private individual is named as the point of contact for the foreign government being represented. So who is Harold Brady?
Brady, who did not return phone and e-mail messages, is a prominent attorney and JLP member. He has run two unsuccessful campaigns for parliament, and, in Samuda's words, has "vast experience in international law and politics" as a result of a two-year stint as secretary general of the International Democrat Union. Founded in 1983 by such world leaders as Margaret Thatcher, Jacques Chirac, Helmut Kohl and George H.W. Bush, the IDU is a coalition of center-right political parties that counts JLP among its members.
According to a CV posted on a website about noteworthy Jamaicans, Brady once also worked as a consultant for Hogan & Hartson. (A spokewoman for the firm did not respond to a request for comment.) He spent much of his early career at the prominent Jamaican firm Dunn Cox, joining the firm in the late '70s and making partner in 1985. Jerome Lee, Dunn Cox's managing partner, says Brady left the firm in 1993 and set up his own shop, Brady & Co.
Local lawyers familiar with Jamaica's political and legal landscape say Brady enjoyed a close relationship with former Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga, Golding's predecessor atop the JLP. "Brady is not a politician," says one Jamaican lawyer, who requested anonymity when discussing a colleague. "He's more an urbane lawyer who acts as a behind-the-scenes-type advisor."
Brady is also the chairman of the Jamaica Railway Corporation, which manages the country's rail system -- one of the oldest in the Western hemisphere but largely inoperable after public passenger service ceased in 1992. The JRC continues to operate limited freight service -- and has explored contracts with Chinese and Indian companies to renovate and possibly privatize parts of the system in order to restore rail service in certain areas. Its main business these days, though, is selling off some of its large real estate holdings, putting Brady at the center of a series of multimillion deals.
Brady's annual August birthday party is also a major event on the Kingston social calendar, as noted in these stories from 2008 and 2009 by The Gleaner, one of Jamaica's leading newspapers. In chronicling the celebration and star-studded guest list, the paper calls Brady a "leading socialite" who hosted the "party of all parties."
One lawyer who has been invited to -- but never attended -- Brady's bash confirms that "politicians from both sides, prominent lawyers, and judges on the [Jamaican] Supreme Court all attend," adding that "It's the place to be seen."
Among those attending last year's party, according to The Gleaner, were Jamaica's solicitor general, Douglas Leys, and attorney general, Dorothy Lightbourne. Both have played central roles in the Coke controversy. Lightbourne made the official legal decision not to extradite Coke to the U.S.; Leys traveled to Washington, D.C., in December to meet with officials at the State Department and Main Justice about the dispute, according to Samuda.
Leys acknowledges inviting a Manatt partner -- who sources say is international trade partner Susan Schmidt -- to join him at one of those meetings. In his statement, Samuda maintains that Leys initially met with the Manatt lawyer to discuss possible "alternative approaches" used to resolve previous treaty disputes between the two countries.
"[Leys] made it clear that the government of Jamaica saw no need at that stage to engage their services but would be prepared to consider doing so should the need arise," Samuda said. "[Leys] accepted a suggestion that a representative of the firm attend the planned meeting with the State and Justice Departments as an observer, which he did with the full approval of the State Department."
According to Manatt's FARA filings, one of the State Department representatives briefed on the extradition dispute was John McShane, a 25-year veteran of the CIA, national intelligence officer for the Western hemisphere and member of the National Intelligence Council. Former deputy assistant secretary of state Bisa Williams, now the Obama administration's nominee for ambassador to Niger, was also lobbied.
In his statement, Samuda discounted the revelation from a Washington Post story that a Jamaican government minister joined a meeting between Manatt lawyers and State Department representatives. Samuda identified Ronald Robinson, a junior minister of foreign affairs and co-founder of the JLP's young professionals arm, as the minister in question, but characterized the interaction as a "brief social encounter" with the Manatt lawyer that did not include attending a State Department meeting. (Robinson himself has publicly corroborated Samuda's account.)
But all of this leaves a cloud of confusion hanging over Manatt's precise role and who paid the firm $49,892.62 last September as recorded in a FARA filing from February. They are not insignificant questions. Under FARA, a lawyer cannot attend a bilateral meeting without being counsel of record to one of the participants. (Manatt stated in a FARA filing in March that it had "ceased activities on behalf of the Government of Jamaica.")
The attorney for the man at the center of the story, Coke, says the media and PNP are stirring up controversy where none exists.
"Brady is a highly respected lawyer in Jamaica," says Tom Tavares-Finson, a member of the JLP's electoral commission, a government-appointed senator, and one of Jamaica's leading criminal defense lawyers. "He represents a number of international clients that deal mostly with telecommunications. It is not unusual that when an issue like this arises, the party calls on his expertise, and Manatt is a firm that had done work before for the Jamaican government."
As to who paid Manatt -- and on whose behalf -- Tavares-Finson says, "Nobody has indicated where the money came from, but it's not the government of Jamaica. Whoever gave Brady that money to retain Manatt, that's their business. Even if it was Coke, who is subject to an extradition request by the United States, so what?"
And the conflicting stories about who Manatt's client was? Tavares-Finson says they are most likely the result of a simple misunderstanding.
"To my knowledge, Manatt may have been under the impression that they were acting on behalf of the government of Jamaica," Tavares-Finson says. "And that has since been clarified [by Samuda]."
Not as far as Manatt is concerned.
This article first appeared on The Am Law Daily blog on AmericanLawyer.com.