In-House Lawyer: On a Qwest for improvement
Richard Baer, Qwest Communications International's general counsel, stood before two-dozen of what he calls a 'murderers' row' of plaintiffs attorneys from firms such as Entwistle & Cappucci, Berger & Montague and Cotchett Pitre & McCarthy. Their clients were angry investors suing to recoup more than $40bn (£20.3bn) after a multibillion-dollar accounting scandal wracked the Denver-based telephone company in 2001. Its stock value had plummeted, and, in June 2002, then chief executive Joseph Nacchio resigned amid rumours of fraud and insider trading. Baer says his department, not outside counsel, had to take primary responsibility for handling the difficult, often tense negotiations with investors. The company's survival and the livelihoods of too many people depended on the outcome - people who had nothing to do with Nacchio's alleged deeds. "It was very important that plaintiffs lawyers understood that the company is made up of people, good people," Baer says. "We tried to humanise the company as best we could."
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