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Morgan, Lewis & Bockius last week defeated a $20 million breach-of-contract claim brought by a former client. The case, which was tried in Philadelphia’s Commerce Court Program before Senior Judge Albert Sheppard, stems from advice Morgan, Lewis lawyers gave to the owners of Bro-Tech Corp. about selling their water filtration products to companies in Cuba. On Jan. 30, the 12-member jury issued a unanimous verdict finding that Morgan, Lewis did not breach its contract with Bro-Tech — operating as Purolite — and its owners, Don and Stefan Brodie. “We are very pleased that the members of the jury unanimously recognized that Morgan, Lewis acted appropriately and breached no duty to the firm’s former client,” the firm’s general counsel, Michael Bloom, said in a statement. Neither Morgan, Lewis nor its counsel — William O’Brien and Nancy Gellman of Conrad O’Brien Gellman & Rohn — would say whether there were settlement talks. Marc Kasowitz of Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman in New York represented the Brodies and Purolite at trial. His colleague, Aaron Marks, says they are disappointed with the verdict and still deciding whether they would appeal. The case involved advice Morgan, Lewis gave to company officials after learning products were being sold to Cuba. According to Kasowitz, Morgan, Lewis told the Brodies that as long as there was no U.S. involvement in the sales from its Canadian or England offices to Cuba, then the company could not get into trouble. The U.S. Trading With the Enemy Act states that no U.S.-based company or person or any U.S.-owned company operating outside of the country can sell to Cuba. O’Brien says the firm told the Brodies that the company could not sell to Cuba, and that they should send a memo to their offices stating that advice. In 1996, the U.S. Customs Service opened an administrative probe of the Brodies and Purolite, Kasowitz says. The matter was turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The Brodies were indicted in 2000, Kasowitz says — and both eventually reached plea deals with the government. In 2005, Sheppard threw out the claims of legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty against Morgan, Lewis because of a two-year statute of limitations, but kept the breach-of-contract claim.
Gina Passarella is a reporter for The Legal Intelligencer , an ALM publication.

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