6/12/17- Coral Gables- Becker & Poliakoff logo (J. Albert Diaz)
Fort Lauderdale-based Becker & Poliakoff’s attorney says it paid nothing to resolve a $160 million lawsuit by a Chinese conglomerate over the failed redevelopment of the Fashion Mall site in Plantation.
The firm and former employee Pamela Anselmo spent more than a year engaged in hard-fought litigation with Tangshan Ganglu Iron & Steel Co. Ltd., which alleged Becker & Poliakoff contributed to nine-figure losses on the real estate project.
But Friday, the parties filed a joint stipulation dismissing the case with prejudice and agreeing that each side would cover its own legal fees and costs.
“Ganglu completely abandoned its $160 million claim,” said defense attorney Robert Critton, partner at Critton Luttier Coleman in West Palm Beach. “After all the fanfare for the last two years … it’s gone and not a nickel was paid; no consideration of any nature whatsoever.”
Co-defendant Anselmo left Becker & Poliakoff in 2014, joined Hinshaw & Culbertson, and now heads Anselmo & Associates in Fort Lauderdale.
According to Tangshan Ganglu, the firm and Anselmo “inexplicably” drafted “corporate documents which completely destroyed” the investor’s majority ownership and fraudulently transferred it instead to a minority partner in 2010. Tangshan Ganglu claimed that until Becker & Poliakoff executed that document, it held a 99 percent stake in three companies leading a $300 million renovation that would transform the 33-acre mall property into a sprawling town center with retail, housing, dining and entertainment.
But Becker & Poliakoff “flatly denies it ever represented Tangshan Ganglu,” and claimed it met the company’s chief executive “on at most a handful of occasions.” It alleged the lawsuit was a baseless attempt to recover millions after Tangshan Ganglu emerged on the losing side of a bankruptcy battle that its former partner initiated without its consent.
But Becker & Poliakoff representatives said the resolution vindicates the firm from all allegations and discredited Tangshan Ganglu’s key witness, CEO and steel mogul Zhen Zeng Du.
“That’s not a settlement. It’s a capitulation,” said Becker & Poliakoff managing shareholder Gary Rosen, who celebrated a “rare result” in which which a firm resolved a malpractice suit without even a nuisance payment.
The contentious litigation involved multiple motions to compel Tangshan Ganglu to turn over documents in discovery, and a motion to force Ganglu to show why it hadn’t complied with two court orders.
The defendants sought to force the Chinese firm to turn over 10 years’ worth of financial documents independently audited by multinational consultant Ernst & Young.
“They desperately did not want to produce those documents,” Critton said. “Those documents would have been a goldmine, and I think those documents were a factor in their decision to take a hike on this.”
Lawrence Kellogg and Jezabel Lima of Levine Kellogg Lehman Schneider + Grossman in Miami represented Tangshan Ganglu.
“Ganglu made a decision not to proceed with the litigation, which is a decision that was best for all the parties involved,” Kellogg said.
Critton said of opposing counsel: “I don’t know that a firm would walk away from a $160 million claim, not trying to squeeze something out … some nuisance value. There was something there that stunk, and they wanted to be separated from this client.”