THANKS FOR THE HOSPITALITY, NOW PREPARE TO FIGHT
Just four days after returning from a three-week trip to China, Royce Lamberth, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, published a massive 118-page opinion that keeps the Bank of China as a defendant in a civil terrorism suit.
On Oct. 20, Lamberth said the Bank of China, represented by K&L Gates, is not immune from suit in an April 2006 terrorist bombing in Tel Aviv, Israel, that killed several people in a restaurant. The plaintiffs, represented by Brooklyn, N.Y., solo practitioner Robert Tolchin, allege that the Bank of China knew millions of dollars in financial services with officers and agents for an alleged Palestinian foreign terrorist organization would be used to carry out attacks.
Was the trip to China a coincidence or a carefully planned research mission? Lamberth said he wasn’t working on the opinion while traveling, other than a few edits here and there. Rather, he said this was a vacation, and he was busy soaking up the culture.
Lamberth, who hadn’t been to China since 1970, said he rode a bullet train for the first time. He saw the life-size terra cotta warriors in Xian. A native of Texas, Lamberth said he had the best Big Mac in his life at a McDonald’s in Hong Kong. “It tasted just like home,” he said. Lamberth said he was most impressed with the booming economy with all the building, especially in Shanghai. He had his BlackBerry with him, but that was mostly used to keep up with the Washington Redskins and the University of Texas football team. — Mike Scarcella
BREUER ASSEMBLES TEAM FOR BANK PROBES
Last fall, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer put the pharmaceutical industry on notice, saying the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division would step up foreign anti-bribery enforcement. Breuer last week added a new industry to the target list of global enforcement: banking and finance. On Oct. 19, Breuer announced the creation of a new unit in the asset forfeiture and money laundering section — the money laundering and bank integrity unit — that will focus on financial institutions, money launderers and individuals doing business with virtual currency and mobile payment systems. “Now, more than ever, the American public wants and deserves trust and transparency from the financial industry,” Breuer said in remarks at a money laundering enforcement conference in Washington last week. Jennifer Shasky recently took over the section, and her principal deputy chief is Jaikumar Ramaswamy. Breuer said he’s looking for aggressive prosecutors and lawyers from the banking industry to join the section. Mayer Brown white-collar criminal defense partner Michael Volkov in Washington said he expects the increased enforcement will become a cash stream for DOJ. “When Lanny Breuer speaks, the industry better listen,” Volkov said. — Mike Scarcella
The day will go down as a record-breaker for lawyers behaving badly. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals on Oct. 21 issued seven disbarments, the largest single-day total that D.C. Bar Counsel Wallace “Gene” Shipp Jr. can remember in his 30 years with the office. “I’ve never in my life seen this many disbarments in one day,” he said. “It’s a stunning number.” The disbarments were reciprocal actions from Florida and Virginia — and four of them were real estate lawyers. So far this year, the court has issued 16 reciprocal disbarments and eight original disbarments, compared with 16 reciprocal and 17 original disbarments in 2009. Despite the Oct. 21 showing, Shipp said that he hasn’t seen an especially high number of cases involving real estate wrongdoing this year. He expects totals for 2010 to be close to last year. — Leigh Jones
Patton Boggs partner Jonathan Yarowsky is about to spend even more time with trial lawyers. Yarowsky has long been on contract as an outside lobbyist for the American Association for Justice, which is the trade association for the plaintiffs’ bar. And on Oct. 19, he registered to lobby on behalf of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, a San Diego-based law firm that specializes in bringing securities class actions. The law firm had not previously hired a lobbyist, but now it wants to influence how the Obama administration overhauls Wall Street regulations. The issue hasn’t been a big priority for the American Association for Justice, which focuses instead on topics like state tort pre-emption, and an association spokesman said that Robbins Geller’s lobbying is a separate effort. Yarowsky declined to comment. — David Ingram
PAY TO PLAY
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, charged with insider trading in Texas, has been waiting nearly two years for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to process a public records request that involves hundreds of thousands of documents. At Oct. 22 hearing in Washington’s federal court, his lawyer, Stephen Best of Dewey & LeBoeuf, offered what he called a “creative” solution to “move this along.” Cuban, Best said, is willing to pay for contract attorneys or compensate the SEC for overtime to get the records request processed. The SEC’s Juanita Hernandez said the agency would think about the offer, but she wasn’t optimistic. Hernandez seemed concerned about people with “deep pockets” cutting the line. — Mike Scarcella
District of Columbia firms are seeing an uptick in work thanks to the recent furor over mortgage companies’ foreclosure practices. To keep up with demand, K&L Gates has launched a task force designed to aid clients in addressing questions related to potential lawsuits, hearings and foreclosure moratoriums. Laurence Platt, a mortgage banking partner in the firm’s Washington office and a leader of K&L Gates’ financial services practice, said clients include national banks, loan servicers and other public companies. Andrew Sandler, a name partner at BuckleySandler, said his firm has about 70 lawyers working on foreclosure matters. “That’s more lawyers than we’ve ever had working on a single issue,” Sandler said. — Jeff Jeffrey
U.S. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) reported $551,000 in payments from his campaign fund to 12 law firms in the third quarter of this year as he faces multiple ethics probes for allegedly trying to hide an affair. The Las Vegas Review-Journal first reported the payments, which cover bills for him and his staff. Payments include: $244,443 to Wiley Rein; $147,515 to Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell; $69,393 to Fish & Richardson; and $25,000 to Covington & Burling. — David Ingram