U.S. Department of Commerce. (Photo: AgnosticPreachersKid via Wikimedia Commons.)
In 1999, then-Perkins Coie partner Yoshihiro Saito gave information to the U.S. Department of Commerce in antidumping proceedings that misrepresented certain facts. On Thursday, Saito—now retired from practicing law—was formally suspended from the D.C. Bar for one year.
Saito agreed to the discipline. In an interview, he said that given the amount of time it took the Office of Bar Counsel to prosecute his case, his age (he’s 73) and the difficulties he anticipated in tracking down witnesses so long after the events at issue, he thought it best to reach an agreement.
“It just took too long and took too much of my life,” he said.
The Office of Bar Counsel docketed a complaint against Saito in 2003. Not much happened in the case until 2011, when it was reassigned to a new assistant bar counsel “in an effort to resolve old, pending cases,” according to documents filed in Saito’s disciplinary case.
“We should have done better,” said Bar Counsel Wallace Shipp Jr. He declined to discuss the details of Saito’s case.
Saito represented Tokyo Kikai Seisakusho Ltd. (TKS), a Japanese company that manufactures large newspaper printing presses. Saito brought the company to Perkins as a client when he joined the firm in 1998, according to a previous report by Legal Times.
The Commerce Department and International Trade Commission were investigating TKS for possible dumping violations—when a foreign company sells products in the United States at unfairly low prices. To prove it wasn’t dumping, TKS negotiated an increased price for printing presses in a contract with the Dallas Morning News, according to disciplinary case filings.
The deal with the Dallas Morning News also included financial arrangements that would essentially offset the higher price. Saito recommended TKS disclose the full scope of the agreement to the federal government, but the client disagreed. The Commerce Department, relying in part on the incomplete information Saito provided on his client’s behalf, withdrew an antidumping order against TKS.
The details of TKS’ agreement with the Dallas Morning News came out after one of TKS’ competitors brought allegations of antidumping law violations against TKS and other companies. After TKS lost that case, the company filed malpractice allegations against Saito and another Perkins Coie partner, claiming the firm negligently gave a privileged document to the competitor.
According to Legal Times, Perkins Coie paid $19 million to settle the malpractice claims.
Bar counsel’s disciplinary case against Saito only concerned the information he gave to the Commerce Department about TKS’ agreement with the Dallas Morning News. It did not address the malpractice lawsuit.
Saito joined the D.C. Bar in 1981. He had no previous disciplinary history.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals entered an order Thursday approving the suspension negotiated by Saito and bar counsel. Saito said he didn’t think the full facts of what happened came out in the disciplinary proceedings or malpractice case, but “I’ve accepted that.”
Pamela Bresnahan and Elizabeth Treubert Simon of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease represented Saito in the disciplinary case.