The Appellate Division, First Department, has reinstated the lawsuit of a lawyer against several Wall Street banks for allegedly conspiring to block a form of airport financing she devised. Linda Grant Williams, who practiced at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and Greenberg Traurig, sued Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, alleging they boycotted her new bond structure, and the banks’ threats led the two firms to fire her.
Last June, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Bernard Fried in Williams v. Citigroup, 650481-2010, found Williams had no standing to assert the claims of airlines and municipalities against the banks, which underwrite bonds for the construction of airport terminals, finding her only a vendor of services and not a competitor.
But in an unsigned opinion yesterday, a First Department panel said that although she is not a participant in the market for underwriting the bonds, the defendants’ alleged boycott of her bond structure "was a means to restrain trade" in that market. "Where, as here, plaintiff has attempted to facilitate competition with defendants, an attack on her through anticompetitive conduct is sufficient to confer standing," said the panel of Presiding Justice Luis Gonzalez and Justices Angela Mazzarelli, Dianne Renwick, Rosalyn Richter, and Judith Gische.
Because she has sufficiently alleged her Donnelly Act claim, her claim for interference with prospective business relations "should not have been dismissed," the panel said. But a claim for tortious inference with contract was properly dismissed, the court added.
"We’re very happy. It’s been a long time coming," said Michael Bowse, a partner at Peitzman Weg in Los Angeles representing Williams. He said the parties will proceed with discovery. Williams is running a practice with her husband called Williams & Williams in Bedford.
Carmine Boccuzzi, a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton who represented the defendants, did not return messages for comment.