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This is no way to stage a comeback.

Late last summer, New York’s Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy landed its biggest litigation matter in years from Chase Manhattan Bank, once its most important client. The firm spent the next several months arguing that Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, the counsel in a related case, had a conflict — and needed to be replaced. But in the end the judge ruled that Paul, Weiss could stay in. The only firm thrown out of the litigation was Milbank.

The case has a tangled history. In 1996 a copper trader for the Sumitomo Corporation confessed that he had engaged in a fraudulent ten-year trading scheme, involving more than 40 financial institutions, that had cost the Japanese trading company more than $2 billion. Last summer Sumitomo filed fraud suits against Chase and J.P. Morgan & Co. Incorporated, alleging that the banks had abetted the trading scheme.

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