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Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington typically makes life difficult for others. But when it came to clearing up what Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman says was nothing more than a clerical error, CREW had its hands full. Last month the public watchdog group received a letter from Pillsbury partner Kevin Turner asking for a $1,000 payment for work billed in January. The problem was, CREW had never been a client of anyone at Pillsbury. “We called them and left a message with Joan Mullins [Pillsbury's collection specialist] and said, �This isn’t us,’ ” says Naomi Steiner, deputy director of CREW. “ We never heard back from them. Then we received another bill with another warning to pay a few weeks later.” Steiner says it took a call to Pillsbury managing partner Maureen Dwyer before the firm responded to CREW’s protests. From there, CREW learned Pillsbury had the name of Gail Ayers as a billing contact — but Ayers is the chief executive officer of CREW Network, a networking organization not affiliated with CREW. Mullins then e-mailed CREW and stated Pillsbury was willing to forgive the debt because of the “incomplete wording of the invoice.” Steiner says it wasn’t until Legal Times called the firm last week that her organization heard directly from Pillsbury and received an apology. “It was a simple mix-up due to a clerical error in our billing department,” says Pillsbury’s Dwyer. CREW sees it differently. “It’s a nonstory if they aren’t worried about having questionable billing practices,” says Steiner. “And I think it might be a story for their clients.”
Nathan Carlile can be contacted at [email protected].

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