Ropes & Gray has been thrust into the New York attorney general campaign of one of its partners, with an opponent demanding the disclosure of detailed client information from the firm.
Letitia James, the New York City public advocate and a Democrat running to be the next state attorney general, said on Thursday that her Republican opponent, Ropes & Gray partner Keith Wofford, faces conflicts of interest related to his and his firm’s clients.
“Each one of Ropes & Gray’s clients is a potential conflict for Mr. Wofford,” James’ campaign said in an email Thursday.
Wofford, who is on a leave of absence from Ropes & Gray, is a co-managing partner of the firm’s 300-attorney New York office. He’s been a partner at the firm for the last 12 years, focusing on corporate restructuring.
James on Thursday called on Wofford to disclose every client that his firm represents and every client he has directly represented, including before the state. She also demanded that Wofford release the nature of the law firms’ representation of each client; how many clients represented during Wofford’s tenure had business before the state attorney general’s office; and the total compensation to the firm, and to Wofford personally, for the 12 years he has been a partner.
While the demand adds more transparency pressure to the candidates’ campaigns, the request is unlikely to be fulfilled. In a statement, a Ropes & Gray spokesman said, “It is not our practice as a firm to discuss our clients, the work we do for them, or our internal affairs.” The firm added that Wofford “is a valued partner” currently on leave of absence while running for office.
A spokeswoman for Wofford’s campaign, Andrea Bozek, said on Friday, “There is only one candidate in the race that has a conflict of interest and that is Letitia James for her relationships with politicians like Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo.”
Wofford’s financial disclosure forms show he made somewhere between $4.35 and $4.45 million at the firm last year. The average profits per equity partner at Ropes & Gray were about $2.3 million last year, according to The American Lawyer.
James has also called on Wofford in recent days to release at least five years of his tax returns, something he hasn’t done in the race so far. The campaign has compared Wofford to President Donald Trump, who also chose not to release his tax returns during his campaign for president.
James’ spokesman said on Thursday that Wofford should disclose his clients in the interest of transparency.
“Mr. Wofford’s position as a partner at a Wall Street law firm and his multimillion-dollar compensation create an inherent conflict of interest with his candidacy for attorney general,” said Jack Sterne, press secretary for James’ campaign. “At a time when Donald Trump’s presidency is mired in conflicts of interest, it is imperative that Mr. Wofford come clean.”
Ropes & Gray is ranked as one of the top 15 largest law firms by revenue, generating nearly $1.6 billion last year. The firm is well known for its representation of investment funds, private equity firms and hedge funds and has held a top spot in private equity league tables. The firm’s website boasts that it has represented clients on a full spectrum of government enforcement matters and that its partners have defended financial services clients in New York attorney general investigations, among other government inquiries.
Still, like other large law firms with revolving doors, other Ropes & Gray attorneys have gone on to serve in top government positions, including the state’s attorney general office. In 2015, for instance, Jason Brown in 2015 left his partner position to serve as chief deputy attorney general under Eric Schneiderman.