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Covington's Decision to Represent Clemens Irks Major League BaseballEarlier this year Covington & Burling decided to add pitcher Roger Clemens to its roster of high-profile clients. But perhaps it should first have received approval from another client, Major League Baseball. Covington agreed to represent Clemens in the congressional steroids inquiry without getting the league's sign-off -- a potential blunder that annoyed the league. Now a meeting between the firm and MLB is imminent, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The American Lawyer2008-02-11 12:00:00 AM
Earlier this year Covington & Burling decided to add pitcher Roger Clemens to its roster of high-profile clients. But perhaps it should have received approval from another client, Major League Baseball, first. Covington agreed to represent Clemens in the congressional steroids inquiry without getting the league's sign-off -- a potential blunder in the high-stakes world of sports league representation. According to a source familiar with the matter, Covington's decision to represent Clemens annoyed the league. The official relationship between Major League Baseball and the firm has not changed but, according to the same source, a meeting between the two is imminent.
Mitchell Dolin, a Covington partner designated as the firm's spokesperson, declined to comment. Patrick Courtney, a spokesperson for MLB, also declined to comment.
In January, Clemens was asked to testify before a congressional committee investigating steroids in baseball. The hearing, scheduled for Feb. 13, comes on the heels of a report prepared by former senator George Mitchell -- and commissioned by Major League Baseball -- that linked Clemens and 90 other players to performance enhancing drugs based on various sources. The report was supposed to serve as the league's definitive inquiry into the issue.
After the report came out, Clemens hired Houston-based attorney Rusty Hardin, who led a public relations battle to clear Clemens's name. He aggressively attacked the Mitchell Report. But when the theater moved to Washington, D.C., Hardin needed some additional help. He turned to Lanny Breuer, co-chairman of Covington's white-collar defense and investigations group, who has plenty of experience on the Hill. As special counsel to President Clinton, he represented the president during his impeachment proceedings. Since then his clients before congressional committees have included Halliburton Co., Moody's Investors Service in connection with Enron Corp.'s collapse, and the University of California in an investigation into Los Alamos National Laboratory.
But the Clemens assignment would potentially put Covington at odds with one of its clients, MLB. Covington has a long history of representing professional sports leagues. Although the firm is known mostly for its work on behalf of the National Football League, it has also done some work for baseball, according to its Web site. Last year, for example, it represented baseball in connection with the launch of an MLB channel. However, Clemens's interests appeared to be aligned against baseball. Breuer, like Hardin, would likely have to attack the Mitchell Report. Breuer apparently didn't accept the Clemens assignment right away. In January, Hardin told The New York Times that Breuer said he had to get clearance first. "We'd talked to him, and we'd just been waiting a day or two to check out conflicts," said Hardin. "He had no conflicts."