October 24, 2020

Big litigation guns hired in wake of controversial Al Jazeera report

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ALJAZEERA-DRUGS

ALJAZEERA-DRUGS

By Jennifer Henderson, From The Am Law Daily

Litigators from Davis Wright Tremaine, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan have been retained in the aftermath of a controversial investigative report aired by Al Jazeera America on Sunday night that accuses several high-profile U.S. athletes of using performance-enhancing substances.

William “Bill” Burck, co-managing partner of Quinn Emanuel’s office in Washington, D.C., and co-chair of the firm’s white-collar and corporate investigations group inside the Beltway, is advising Major League Baseball players Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies and Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals. Both players have publicly denied accusations in the Al Jazeera story claiming that they used a hormone supplement called Delta-2, and their respective teams have each issued statements expressing support for their players.

The Am Law Daily reached out to Burck, who joined Quinn Emanuel four years ago and was recently retained by soccer’s global governing body to handle a federal corruption probe, but he declined to comment outside of issuing a statement expressing exasperation at Al Jazeera’s athletic exposé.

“It’s inexcusable and irresponsible that Al Jazeera would provide a platform and broadcast outright lies about Mr. Howard and Mr. Zimmerman,” Burck said. “The extraordinarily reckless claims made against our clients in this report are completely false and rely on a source who has already recanted his claims. We will go to court to hold Al Jazeera and other responsible parties accountable for smearing our clients’ good names.”

Howard and Zimmerman are both represented by an affiliate of the Creative Artists Agency, which also handles matters for Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who is also named in the Al Jazeera report as using human growth hormone while recovering from a potentially career-ending neck injury in 2011. Manning has vigorously denied the HGH allegation, and threatened legal action. The Broncos and his former team, the Indianapolis Colts, have issued statements in support of him.

Thomas Condon, a former football player, attorney and CAA agent who represents Manning, did not return a request for comment as to whether the future Hall of Famer has hired his own outside counsel. Manning has already retained former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer to manage the fallout from the Al Jazeera documentary. Fleischer’s communications shop in White Plains, New York, was closed Monday for the holidays.

A person familiar with the matter told The Am Law Daily that Manning has hired Gibson Dunn’s Theodore “Ted” Olson, a member of the firm’s executive committee and founder of its appellate, constitutional and crisis management practice, while Al Jazeera’s New York-based U.S. unit has turned to noted First Amendment lawyer and Davis Wright partner Robert Corn-Revere.

The Am Law Daily reported earlier this year that Gibson Dunn and Olson were paid $405,892 by the National Football League Players Association for their work on behalf of the union during its most recent fiscal year. (The American Lawyer just named Gibson Dunn its Litigation Department of the Year.) Olson declined a request for comment about his role representing Manning.

Corn-Revere, whose clients have included media giants like CBS Corp. and a Seattle street magician, declined to comment about his work for Al Jazeera. The Qatari-based television network’s Sunday report rests on claims made by a pharmacist and former intern, Charles Sly, to a former athlete working as part of its investigative unit. Sly—who interned at the Guyer Institute of Molecular Medicine in Indianapolis, where Manning once received treatment—has since recanted his statements in a YouTube video.

Julianne Cartmel, an Indianapolis lawyer serving as the Guyer Institute’s general counsel, did not return a phone call by the time of this story. She told other media outlets that Sly did not start working at the Guyer Institute until 2013, well after Manning attended the facility, and that an employee who had confirmed Sly’s employment status to Al Jazeera was mistaken.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that the National Football League and MLB will launch internal investigations into the accusations aired on Al Jazeera—the type of probe that in the past has yielded work for Am Law 100 firms. Earlier this year, the NFL called upon another Ted, frequent adviser and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison litigation co-chair Theodore Wells Jr., to lead an inquiry into the infamous Deflategate scandal that remains in litigation. Wells did not return a request for comment.

An NFL spokesman, returning a message sent to NFL general counsel Jeffrey Pash, said that the league is reviewing the Al Jazeera matter and that its “procedure is to follow up on any information that potentially involves a violation of this nature.”

MLB general counsel Daniel Halem, a former Proskauer Rose partner helping the league make inroads in Cuba, is overseeing baseball’s own inquiry that will be led by deputy general counsel and vice president for investigations Bryan Seeley, a former federal prosecutor hired in 2014. Seeley will be assisted by MLB vice president and deputy general counsel for labor relations Patrick Houlihan and labor counsel and senior director for league drug programs Jonathan Coyles.

As for Al Jazeera, its headline-grabbing doping documentary closely follows the news outlet’s hire in November of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom to conduct its own internal probe after reports surfaced that its Americas general counsel David Harleston was not licensed to practice law. The company subsequently suspended Harleston.

DLA Piper advised Al Jazeera almost three years ago on its $500 million acquisition of Current TV, the Al Gore-owned network that would become Al Jazeera America. Earlier this year, sagging ratings and profits preceded a reorganization of Al Jazeera America’s management. U.S. Senate records show that Al Jazeera itself has paid $200,000 to DLA Piper for lobbying work through the first three quarters of 2015.

IMAGE: Credit: Aaron Couture/Fotolia

For more on this story go to: http://www.americanlawyer.com/id=1202745873696/Big-Litigation-Guns-Hired-in-Wake-of-Controversial-Al-Jazeera-Report#ixzz3vj5zAgto

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