A former Stoel Rives project finance partner has sued the firm in Washington, D.C., alleging it pushed him out because of his age, failed to give him proper credit for landing a major client matter and undermined his attempts to find a new professional home.
Roger Rosendahl, now listed as a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough’s New York office, lodged age discrimination and other allegations against his former firm. Rosendahl, representing himself, initially filed the Stoel Rives suit in December in D.C. superior court, but it was removed on Wednesday to D.C. federal court. Stoel Rives, an Am Law 200 firm based in Portland, Oregon, is being defended by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.
In his complaint, Rosendahl seeks a judgment of at least $30 million and accuses Stoel Rives and several former colleagues, including Mark Morford, a special counsel focused on environmental law, and Bradley Tellam, who serves as firm counsel and chief operating officer, of age bias. The suit alleges that Rosendahl joined Stoel Rives from DLA Piper in 2014, at age 73.
Rosendahl wasn’t asked how old he was when he was hired and didn’t volunteer the information, he said. But his age eventually became known within Stoel Rives, and he was then allegedly subjected to mocking comments and suggestions that his title be changed to “partner emeritus” because he was an older lawyer. Rosendahl went on to allege that the firm benefited from his expertise, even as it steered work away from him and stopped bringing him to client pitches.
“Upon discovery of plaintiff’s age, the firm increasingly excluded plaintiff from key work that plaintiff had developed for the firm and … reassigned plaintiff’s work, credit, and responsibility to younger partners,” Rosendahl wrote in his complaint. “The firm otherwise isolated, disparaged, and harassed plaintiff, creating an increasingly hostile work environment.”
In December, Rosendahl wrote, he was called into a meeting and informed that he was being immediately terminated by Stoel Rives and removed from the firm’s website. The termination came after Rosendahl raised “outspoken objections” to his treatment within the firm.
Rosendahl also alleged that in the lead-up to his termination, Stoel Rives contacted Andrews Kurth. It’s not clear from Rosendahl’s complaint what Stoel Rives allegedly told Andrews Kurth about Rosendahl, but he accused Stoel Rives of undermining his chances of joining that firm. Andrews Kurth would have been a natural landing spot, Rosendahl said, because his former longtime associate George Pavlenishvili had recently joined that firm, now known as Hunton Andrews Kurth, as a partner.
Grace Speights, a Morgan Lewis partner on the defense team, declined to comment on the case. A media contact at Stoel Rives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rosendahl also brought claims of fraud and alleged that the firm conspired to deprive him of proper credit for a major project finance representation of Northwest Innovation Works, a multinational partnership that is developing methanol production plants at sites in Oregon and Washington State. Rosendahl said he played a key role in helping Stoel Rives secure that work, which included several multibillion-dollar projects that he describes as, “the largest series of project finance transactions in the firm’s history.”
But after bringing in the client, Rosendahl alleged that he was thwarted from doing substantive work on the financing as Stoel Rives assigned duties to other, younger partners instead. Rosendahl said that the Northwest Innovation project finance could bring in premiums of up to $35 million for Stoel Rives on closing.
“Plaintiff had landed a ‘whale’ and the firm took it and then asked ‘where is your whale?’” Rosendahl wrote in his complaint.