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Pillsbury Winthrop has settled a $45 million defamation suit brought against it by former partner Frode Jensen. According to a statement released Tuesday by Stanley Arkin, a New York attorney representing Jensen, the two sides have agreed to settle litigation pending in Connecticut Superior Court. The terms of the deal, including any financial payments, are confidential. The announcement also contained a four-sentence statement by Pillsbury Winthrop in which the firm recants its previous public statements regarding Jensen and calls him “one of the firm’s most productive corporate partners.” The announcement appeared to indicate that Pillsbury’s apology was a condition of the settlement. Ronald Van Buskirk, Pillsbury’s general counsel, said the settlement was effective as of two days ago but he was unable to comment on the details. The four sentences by Pillsbury were the only statement that the parties agreed could be released, Van Buskirk said. The settlement closes one of the most unpleasant chapters in Pillsbury Winthrop’s recent history and eliminates the possibility of a public and potentially embarrassing trial. In September, Pillsbury stunned the legal community when Chair Mary Cranston and Managing Partner Marina Park issued a press release disparaging Jensen, a corporate partner in the firm’s Stamford, Conn., office who had moved to Latham & Watkins. In the release, Cranston claimed that Jensen’s departure came on the heels of sexual harassment allegations that involved him, and “a significant decline in his productivity.” The release noted that Jensen had been largely absent from the firm’s Stamford office for the past nine months. “Our firm values respect and integrity above all else,” said Cranston in the release. “We investigated the harassment claims, concluded that there was a reasonable likelihood that harassment had occurred and responded with a variety of measures.” Jensen responded the following month with the $45 million defamation suit naming Pillsbury Winthrop, Cranston, Park and John Pritchard, the firm’s vice chair. The 24-page complaint accused the defendants of character and commercial assassination, while offering readers a glimpse into the internal affairs of 640-attorney Pillsbury Winthrop. Among other things, the suit claimed that a number of Pillsbury partners had been accused of sexual harassment and had never had the allegations publicly disclosed by the firm. In February, both sides filed a joint motion asking the court to stay the case while they pursued non-binding meditation. Tuesday’s settlement announcement suggests that the mediation proved fruitful. One managing partner at a large firm in San Francisco said he was not surprised that the case settled. “Pillsbury had to settle the case because of their exposure and because they didn’t want to have this case tried,” he said. “It’s the time that it would take with regard to their personnel; it’s the nature of the allegations that were made against Frode; and it’s the distraction created by the lawsuit.” It’s also unclear whether Pillsbury’s insurance would have covered any punitive damages that might have been awarded had the case gone to trial. The statement released Tuesday was in sharp contrast to the caustic words that characterized Pillsbury’s initial release and Jensen’s subsequent suit against the firm. “Pillsbury Winthrop deeply regrets making its public statements regarding Frode Jensen,” read the release. “Mr. Jensen was a valued and respected member of the firm and was one of the firm’s most productive corporate partners. “Mr. Jensen is an accomplished corporate transactional lawyer, and he made many important contributions during his tenure at the firm. Pillsbury wishes him well in all his future endeavors and employment opportunities.”

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