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Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering was paid more than $3 million to write a memo to its client. Not just any client, of course, but the Enron Corp. And it wasn’t just a memo. It was what has become known as the Powers report. In 146 pages of exhaustive detail, the report describes the accounting gymnastics and corporate governance lapses that left Enron in freefall. It has been pored over by thousands of lawyers, accountants, politicians, investors, and journalists since it was released on Feb. 1. Wilmer Cutler partner William McLucas and 33 of his colleagues were called in by a special committee of Enron’s board in late October to investigate the company’s demise. The chairman of that committee was University of Texas Law School Dean William Powers Jr. Wilmer Cutler churned out the corporate equivalent of an autopsy report in little more than three months. As McLucas and the firm’s court filings make clear, they were feverish months. Like other law firms retained by Enron, Wilmer Cutler has filed a voluminous fee statement in the bankruptcy court for the judge’s approval. In addition to legal fees and expenses, the 180-page statement provides an hour-by-hour record of the tasks each lawyer shouldered. Twenty-six Wilmer Cutler lawyers and eight staffers billed a total of 6,482.4 hours on Enron work during December and January, according to the filing. The firms’ fees run to just over $3 million, and expenses clock in at $186,000. Those totals don’t include the firm’s hours, fees, or expenses during November, before Enron’s Dec. 2 bankruptcy filing. Wilmer managing partner William Perlstein says the firm’s pre-bankruptcy fees were “about $1 million.” Enron paid the November bills before filing for Chapter 11. The firm’s expenses, most of which were racked up in December and January, reflect the nature of the work McLucas — a former director of enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission — and his team were tackling. Online research costs were a mere $6,900. But hotel bills ran to just over $56,000. For Wilmer Cutler, Enron wasn’t an exercise in legal research. It was an on-the-ground hunt for answers. By January, McLucas relates, most of the underlying facts that informed the report had been developed through witness interviews and forensic accounting. Drafting had begun in earnest, interspersed with follow-up interviews, fact checking, congressional hearings, and urgent “information requests” from the SEC. On New Year’s Day, Wilmer Cutler partner David Cohen and associate Mark Oh shook off the previous night and boarded planes for Houston. Associate Lee Brodsky spent hours that day wrestling with the latest subpoena from the SEC, among other festive New Year’s legal tasks. Brodsky would ultimately bill 549 hours on Enron in two months, second only to partner Joseph Brenner, with 570. The next day, Brodsky and Brenner were on planes to Houston, along with partner Charles Davidow and eight other Wilmer lawyers. The cast changed as lawyers shuttled back and forth to Washington, but during January, Wilmer Cutler installed a total of 12 lawyers at Houston’s Four Seasons hotel for three weeks. Like the others, Davidow billed over 500 hours to Enron in two months. “It was critical to have partners neck deep in the facts,” McLucas says. “There was no room for making a mistake.” McLucas credits his colleagues with guiding the investigation and drafting much of the report. He says he handled witness interviews and scrutinized iterations of the report. But he also spent a lot of time conferring with the Enron committee. On Jan. 7, for example, he logged nearly 10 hours in one committee meeting. The next day, he put in eight more at another. The firm’s time records also show that McLucas conferred several times with staff for congressional committees investigating Enron, and with other lawyers working on the case, including Enron counsel Robert Bennett and Carl Rauh, of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and Howrey Simon Arnold & White partner W. Neil Eggleston, who has been representing Enron’s outside directors. McLucas, who billed 344 hours to Enron over December and January, says the committee members sifted through the drafts of the report and often edited the prose. “They did what a board committee is supposed to do,” he adds. As Wilmer Cutler’s Feb.1 deadline — which McLucas says was to some extent self-imposed — loomed, he and his colleagues were routinely working more than 10 hours a day, seven days a week. McLucas and others were conducting interviews right up to Jan. 31. They were also sweating over the implications of the document they were about to release. “There was a lot of sleep lost over making sure we were fair when we got to assessing individual conduct,” McLucas says. “That was the most difficult part, writing the conclusions, assessing where the breakdowns in judgment were.”

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