(Photo by Andres Balcazar/iStock)

Since June, Dentons’ Mexican affiliate has been embroiled in a bitter “business divorce” dispute between the predecessor firm’s co-founders over allegedly stolen client information and false marketing. The suit, filed in Mexico City, has not started well for Dentons: The firm’s Mexico City office head was slapped with a court sanction earlier this month. And the dispute may get uglier.

The plaintiff, Gerardo Soria, a former name partner of Dentons predecessor firm López Velarde, Heftye y Soria (LVHS), is hoping to get a judge to void Dentons’ deal with his former partner and co-founder, Rogelio López-Velarde, and pay him back at least $1 million in capital he claims to be owed.

In May, the 7,300-lawyer global legal giant clinched a combination with LVHS, a 13-lawyer shop based in Mexico City. But the final deal was far from the one that Dentons’ partnership had voted to approve last November with LVHS. Excluded was LVHS name partner Soria, a well-known telecommunications lawyer, and his seven-lawyer telecom, technology and media group.

Soria claims that he took his entire team out of the deal with Dentons earlier this year after a disagreement with López-Velarde over the handling and distribution of Dentons’ initial referrals this past winter. In June, he sued the Dentons entity and López-Velarde, a prominent energy regulatory lawyer, alleging that López-Velarde had falsely marketed Soria’s practice group’s client list, fees and other business records during negotiations with Dentons. Soria also claims that his team has long operated independently of LVHS as Soria Abogados, sharing the same office space and website, but managing twin business lines separately.

On Aug. 10, a civil court judge in Mexico City sanctioned López-Velarde after he failed to show up for a scheduled court date. The judge also noted that the defendants had failed to produce a laundry list of documents detailing the firm’s business, finance and compliance with anti-bribery laws that she had ordered by that date.

López-Velarde’s lawyer, Jorge Canals—recently hired as a counsel in Dentons’ Mexico City office—told the judge that his client was unavailable because he had flown to a meeting in Washington, D.C., offering López-Velarde’s itinerary as evidence. But the judge, Maria de Los Angeles Rojano Zavalza, didn’t buy it. She slapped López-Velarde with a 2,000 peso fine (about $95). If López-Velarde fails to show up at the next court date, Sept. 28, he could face as much as 72 hours under arrest, said a lawyer for Soria, who provided The American Lawyer with a copy of the sanction order.

“This is a fairly routine assessment, which relates to scheduling matters,” said a statement by a Dentons spokeswoman to The Am Law Daily. “The hearing is being rescheduled, and there has been no ruling on the merits. We continue to contest the allegations, and believe they are baseless.”

Contact this reporter at jtriedman@alm.com or on twitter at @julietriedman.