A week before three former Dewey & LeBoeuf leaders were charged with engineering a massive fraud that helped destroy the firm, litigator Geoffrey Coll underscored the human toll of the collapse caused by their alleged actions by filing for Chapter 7 protection.
Coll, a former white-collar litigation partner at Dewey who is now of counsel with Schiff Hardin in Washington, D.C., filed for bankruptcy on Feb. 27 in suburban Greenbelt, Md. In doing so, he became the second known former Dewey partner to declare himself insolvent in the wake of the firm’s failure. Gregory Owens, now a banking partner with White & Case, filed for bankruptcy two months ago in New York.
“I really have nothing to say other than that I have now been sued by the Dewey bankruptcy trustee, Barclays and the Dewey landlord for amounts much more than I could ever pay,” Coll said in a statement emailed to The Am Law Daily. “While not happy about it, I was left with no choice but to file for bankruptcy. I look forward to closing the Dewey & LeBoeuf chapter in my life and moving on.”
Coll, whose work at Dewey included helping two former Lucent employees beat an SEC fraud suit and representing a sports advertising company in a high-profile trade secrets case, left the firm for Schiff Hardin in May 2012 as Dewey spiraled toward its death.
Alan Jacobs, the liquidating trustee for Dewey’s estate, filed suit against several former Dewey partners in December seeking the repayment of millions of dollars in compensation they received from Jan. 1, 2009—the date when Jacobs alleges the firm became insolvent—until they left Dewey.
Those suits mirrored a mid-November action filed by Jacobs against former Dewey executive committee member William Marcoux—now a partner at DLA Piper in New York—seeking the return of $3.6 million in partner distributions, $816,000 in tax payments the firm made on his behalf and $128,000 in unpaid capital contributions. The Am Law Daily reported in early February on another batch of ex-Dewey partners who have been hit with clawback claims by Jacobs.
Coll, who was among the former partners targeted by Jacobs in early December, lists the $1.48 million being sought in that suit as being owed to an unsecured creditor in his Chapter 7 petition. His other unsecured debts include a $16,500 personal loan from former Dewey litigation partner Christopher Clark—now a partner at Latham & Watkins—and $25,000 owed to his brother Steven Coll, the dean of Columbia Journalism School and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of books about war-torn Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden’s family and energy giant ExxonMobil.
Before joining LeBoeuf Lamb as a partner in 1998, Geoffrey Coll spent six years in the U.S. foreign service, serving as a diplomat in France and India. Now, 16 years later, Coll lists a “business debt” of $333,194.02 to London-based Barclays Bank, which is suing him in London Commercial Court to collect on a Dewey capital loan plus additional costs. Coll fired back with a suit against Barclays filed in a Manhattan federal court last summer over a $189,000 capital loan he claims is void.
Several other former Dewey partners are currently engaged in litigation with Barclays over their capital loans. Charles Landgraf, a current partner at Arnold & Porter and former head of Dewey’s office in Washington, D.C., is engaged in litigation with Barclays before London’s High Court over his $486,000 capital loan. Last month the High Court rejected Barclays’ bid for summary judgment in the litigation.
Former Dewey partner L. Londell McMillan, known for his ties to the music and entertainment industry, sued Barclays nearly a year ago this month over a $540,000 loan to cover his capital contribution to the now-defunct firm. In April 2013, McMillan claimed that a trio of former Dewey leaders assisted Barclays in the creation of a fraudulent loan scheme designed to keep the firm afloat.
Those leaders—former chair Steven Davis, executive director Stephen DiCarmine and ex–chief financial officer Joel Sanders—were indicted on criminal charges and served with a civil SEC complaint on Thursday. Coll declined to comment on the charges against them.
In addition to defending himself in the actions brought by the Dewey estate and Barclays, Coll is also one of 450 ex-Dewey partners who was sued last September by the firm’s former New York landlord—1301 Property Owners—in state court in Manhattan. In its suit, the landlord seeks more than $45 million left unpaid on the lease on Dewey’s midtown Manhattan office tower, six floors of which are set to be taken over by Chadbourne & Parke, according to our previous reports.
Coll’s Chapter 7 filing also lists secured claims against him by Citibank and Banco Mare Nostrum in Granada, Spain, for home loans and equity lines. Coll owns homes in Bethesda, Md., and Granada, a city in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. (Coll has made four payments to Citibank since November of last year, but still owes $614,555.87 to the banking giant, according to court records.)
Schiff Hardin pays Coll $39,533.32 each month, according to the Chapter 7 petition. After taxes, Social Security and other retirement deductions are tallied, he puts his monthly take home pay at $23,793.80—barely enough to cover the $22,612.34 in monthly expenses Coll incurs paying his mortgages, insurance and utility bills, and education costs for his two children.
Coll, who is married, also lists as personal property $119,350.65 from a retirement plan for Schiff Hardin equity partners, as well as $169,157.07 related to the firm’s professional retirement plans. In a statement of his financial affairs, Coll says Schiff Hardin paid him $455,863 in 2012 and $649,696 last year. He has received $59,375 from Schiff Hardin so far in 2014. (Coll also withdrew $194,467 from his pension in 2012.)
A closer look at Coll’s Chapter 7 petition reveals an accounting of the kind of routine possessions any successful professional might accumulate, among them a 2006 Lexus RS with 110,000 miles on it valued at $11,025 and a 2001 Toyota Camry with 75,000 miles worth a more modest $2,000. Other assets listed include a nonworking Howard Miller grandfather clock estimated at $500, a $3,100 baby grand piano, $1,380 in men and women’s clothing, $2,050 in wedding-related rings, necklaces and other forms of jewelry and an Afghan throwrug, and 100 CDs and 1,000 books worth a collective $650. There’s also a $1,200 membership with Maryland’s Mohican Swimming Pool Association.
Merrill Cohen, a name partner at Rockville, Md.–based Cohen, Baldinger & Greenfeld, is representing Coll in the Chapter 7 case. Court records show that Cohen’s firm has so far received $5,000 for its efforts representing Coll in the matter. Allan Diamond, a name partner with Dallas-based Diamond & McCarthy serving as lead counsel to Jacobs as Dewey trustee, did not respond to a request for comment about Coll’s bankruptcy filing.