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Thanks to the Enron Corp., several of Washington’s well-known white-collar defense lawyers find themselves basking in the white heat of scandal once again. For Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom’s Robert Bennett in particular, Enron has meant a return to omnipresence. Bennett, who represents the bankrupt energy trader, is once again above-the-fold material. He’s also behind-the-scenes material. According to sources with knowledge of the matter, Bennett recommended three of the other attorneys who now represent individuals associated with Enron: Washington, D.C.-based Earl Silbert of Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe; D.C.-based W. Neil Eggleston of Howrey Simon Arnold & White; and D.C.-based Michael Levy of Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman. Silbert represents Enron CEO Kenneth Lay. Eggleston’s clients are the company’s outside directors. Levy has been asked by Enron to represent current and former employees who get called on to provide documents or testimony. Bennett declined to comment on his role in selecting any attorneys, saying only, “You like to work with tremendously capable lawyers.” Says Eggleston: “I won’t comment on how I may have gotten involved in the matter, but once retained I only have one duty of loyalty and that’s to my clients.” Levy declined to comment on the matter. Silbert could not be reached for comment. Bennett and Eggleston worked together during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when Eggleston was a White House counsel and Bennett was personal counsel to President Bill Clinton. As an associate at Skadden in the early 1990s, Levy worked with Bennett on the BCCI banking scandal, in which Skadden represented Clark Clifford and Roger Altman. Levy also worked with Silbert in 1999 on a high-profile environmental crime case against Koch Industries Inc. As was true when he represented Clinton during the Lewinsky debacle, Bennett has sedulously championed his new client in the press, artfully casting aspersions on Congress for leaking documents and sagely warning against an unfounded rush to judgment of Enron by the media. But Bennett’s zealous representation of Enron could ultimately bring him into direct conflict with the lawyers he recommended. Lay, one or more of the outside directors, and company employees could end up suing or being sued by Enron. Or any of them could become subjects of government investigations, criminal prosecutions and civil suits. “In the early days of an investigation, it’s not unusual or improper on its face for lawyers to coordinate, but it sure may not last,” says Thomas Morgan, legal ethics expert at George Washington University Law School. “There is a potential that, down the line, any or all of [the clients] may want to turn on the others. Whether there’s an actual joint defense agreement or just informal coordination of activities, it could turn out to be a bad idea.” In particular, Morgan notes, “privilege issues could arise if one of the people discloses information that another wants to use against them.” Levy dismisses the suggestion that his rapport with the other lawyers presents a potential problem. “Neil, Earl, Bob and myself are representing our clients, and we’re doing so zealously and appropriately,” he says. He also notes that he will not represent any employee who becomes a target of an investigation or prosecution. Bennett downplays the issue. “None of us will do anything at all that’s not in the interests of his client,” he says. He notes, though, that there are advantages to working with lawyers you know and trust, even when your clients’ interests “diverge.” “When divergence takes place, it’s nice to be stabbed in the chest and not in the back,” he says. “I mean, let’s say your client is going to decide to turn and testify. You’d be inclined to give someone you have a good working relationship with a heads up.”

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