Last fall, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan notified Uber Technologies Inc. of the firm’s decision to end their attorney-client relationship, according to a recently filed document in the ongoing legal battle between the ride-hailing giant and Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Waymo.
In a July 20 filing from Uber, it’s revealed that Quinn Emanuel, which now represents Waymo in the dispute over driverless car technology, emailed a number of top attorneys in Uber’s legal department, including current chief legal officer Salle Yoo, to cut off the relationship. The email from Quinn Emanuel partner Stephen Swedlow, dated Sept. 23, 2016, noted that, since the firm entered into Uber’s preferred counsel program with fixed fee arrangements, the cases and tasks it has been hired for have “been at rates that are not financially viable” for the firm.
“As we have discussed many times, if QE was also getting the cases with larger amounts in dispute involving more significant budgets, the smaller tasks on smaller cases would be part of the overall relationship,” Swedlow, who is co-managing partner of the firm’s Chicago office, wrote in the email. “But we have not gotten any of the larger disputes for Uber under the preferred counsel program.”
Quinn Emanuel’s relationship with Uber spanned four and a half years, according to the email, and included representing the company in a dispute with Yellow Cab in Chicago, a class action suit that alleged Uber unlawfully took a cut of driver gratuities and a suit claiming the ride-hailing service charges unfair ride cancellation fees.
While this was a difficult decision for the firm, Swedlow added, “it is no longer feasible to serve the role we have been relegated to in the context of representing Uber.”
Quinn Emanuel and Uber both declined to comment on the July filing or on their relationship.
Uber’s reason for seeking Swedlow’s email can be found in a June 21 filing in which the company moved to compel production of a number of documents by Waymo, including communications that would establish when the possibility of legal action against Uber or former Waymo manager Anthony Levandowski was first discussed with Quinn Emanuel.
“With no prior notice, Quinn Emanuel fired Uber as a client one month before Waymo filed its arbitration action against Mr. Levandowski,” the filing stated. “If Quinn fired Uber as a client knowing that Mr. Levandowski or Uber was going to be sued by Waymo, that would present serious ethical issues that could lead to Quinn’s disqualification.”
Quinn Emanuel, in a June 27 filing, said there is no “’Quinn Conflict,’” adding that there “are no responsive documents from Quinn Emanuel prior to October 2016 because Waymo did not contact Quinn Emanuel regarding this case until 2017.”