Gregory Novak (left) and Tracy Druce. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

A former associate of Novak Druce Connolly Bove & Quigg, which was partially absorbed by Polsinelli in 2016, has sued both firms and four Polsinelli lawyers in federal court in Washington, D.C., claiming they failed to pay him nearly $128,000 in fees generated by a client he introduced.

Jose Antonio Arochi filed his complaint on Friday, one day after Novak Druce filed a declaratory judgment suit in Houston, asserting that Arochi sought to ”harass, frighten and coerce” the partners over money he wasn’t owed to begin with. In fact, the firm claims, Arochi was overpaid and should return some of his earnings.

The complaints agree on very little, but both acknowledge that Novak Druce hired Arochi in 2013 and that he remained, under evolving terms of compensation involving salary and commissions, until Novak Druce’s agreement with Polsinelli was announced in March 2016.

Arochi asserts that under his contract with Novak Druce, he was owed a share of the fees generated by Veteria, a Mexican client he brought to the firm. After Veteria did not pay as planned, Arochi’s suit claimed, he eventually secured a large six-figure payment to Novak Druce. The firm, he alleges, never paid him his promised 20 percent cut of the fees.

“Mr. Arochi has made numerous requests for payment of his unpaid wages to the defendants, but defendants have failed to pay him any amount of the money he is owed,” said Arochi’s complaint. “To this day Mr. Arochi has not received any of the commission he is owed.”

In addition to Novak Druce and Polsinelli, the D.C. suit names as defendants four Polsinelli lawyers who joined the firm together as shareholders from Novak Druce: Burton Amernick, Tracy Druce, Gregory Novak and Matt Todd.

Novak Druce, meanwhile, contends in the Texas suit that the dispute doesn’t belong in Washington to begin with, asserting that Arochi worked in the firm’s Houston office. And in any case, the firm says, Arochi’s contract had been modified by the time Veteria paid up after May 2015, so he was never owed a commission on those fees.

“Taking into account the advances made to defendant including incorrectly calculated overpayments and adjustments … Defendant has received more compensation than he is entitled to and should disgorge the overpayment back to the firm,” the declaratory judgment suit says.

Neither Tracy Druce and Gregory Novak nor Arochi responded directly to requests for comment. Arochi’s complaint says he lives in Mexico City, and Arochi & Lindner, a law firm where his father is a named partner, lists him as an associate there.

Arochi is represented by Avi Kumin of Katz, Marshall & Banks, a firm that has made waves in Washington lately thanks to its representation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. The firm declined to comment for this article.

Polsinelli partner Trey Monsour is representing the firm in the Texas case.

Arochi’s suit isn’t the first time Novak and Druce have faced litigation related to their former firm. Last year Citibank sued them in Washington as part of an effort to recoup $3.2 million from a $10 million loan the bank underwrote. Citibank moved to dismiss the action with prejudice in March of this year.

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