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IN THE WAITING ROOM Twenty-six people claim to have blown the whistle on Columbia/ HCA, the world’s largest health care company, which is in a world of trouble. When the company agreed on May 18 to fork over $745 million to settle a portion of the federal criminal and civil charges it faces for allegedly cheating Medicare (the company does not admit wrongdoing), there were 26 happy faces. Under the False Claims Act, if this tentative pact holds, the helpful whistleblowers and their lawyers will get a 15 percent-to-25 percent cut. But the Department of Justice will deem only 12, or nine, or six of the insiders worthy of multimillion-dollar checks. Their attorneys are now making cases to the feds for a share of the massive fine. Among the surest bets to walk away satisfied are Atlanta’s Marlan Wilbanks (whose client helped launch the probe of questionable billing for home-care services); San Francisco’s Stephen Meagher (client exposed off-base billing for laboratory services and puffing of diagnoses for higher fees); and Tampa, Fla.’s Henry Paul (client highlighted false management fees). Some of the best candidates still remain unknown. Whoever they are, in the end, a year from now, not all 26 will be happy. SHOULD HAVE KNOWN Three judges of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have cleared Seyfarth, Shaw, Fairweather & Geraldson partner Peter Woodford of harassing secretary Donna Pryor when he allegedly said he’d love someday to see pictures of her in Frederick’s of Hollywood undergarments, among other questionable acts. The Chicago firm still faces an embarrassing trial, though. Chief Judge Richard Posner observed that its manner of firing her, three months after she filed a claim against the firm, was “sufficiently odd” to suggest retaliation. He also knocked late-to-surface characterizations of her work as unsatisfactory and insisted that the firm should have more assiduously documented its actions. “Especially,” he wrote, “a law firm like Seyfarth that specializes in employment law!” Seyfarth managing partner Michael Warner says, “What the 7th Circuit had — no one should be misled that those are the facts in the case.” The firm is representing itself. In another law firm case, jurors in Los Angeles concluded that New York’s Stroock & Stroock & Lavan defrauded a former associate when it fired her after having told her that her job was guaranteed. They awarded her $500,000. Stroock plans to appeal. THREE’S A CROWD Gotta get us a New York firm! So say Chicago’s Winston & Strawn and Minneapolis’ Dorsey & Whitney. The problem is, both expansionist firms are courting Whitman Breed Abbott & Morgan. That patrician shop, weary and wobbly after years of squabbling, is about to lose a peachy Manhattan lease. Where will its partners go? Insiders say the two firms are not alone in their woo-pitching. Also: Seattle attorney Denice Patrick files cases for plaintiffs suing the Social Security Administration — and she did so, prosecutors say, while she also worked there. Her attorney, Allen Ressler, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that she didn’t engage in any intentional conflicts of interest. Elsewhere, pugilistic biter/rapist Mike Tyson claims the firm that once represented him, Chicago-based Sidley & Austin, double-crossed him when it wrote up deal documents for ubiquitous boxing puppet master Don King — for a deal with Tyson. Firm chairman Charles Douglas says that the deal had already been cut before the firm began its work but that Sidley paid $21 million to get it out of everybody’s pompadour.

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