October 24, 2020

Court to weigh Greenberg Traurig misconduct claims

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A stack of papers and a flashnight on a desk in a low light scene

A stack of papers and a flashnight on a desk in a low light scene

By Scott Flaherty, from The Litigation Daily

Litigation Daily readers know we’ve been captivated by Facebook Inc.’s lawsuit against DLA Piper, Milberg, and other firms that represented accused Facebook fraudster Paul Ceglia. But the Facebook suit isn’t the only attorney misconduct case heating up these days—and it’s not the only one based on allegations that big-firm lawyers looked the other way when a client doctored documents.

On April 20, a state court judge in Manhattan heard summary judgment arguments in a case accusing Greenberg Traurig and one of its former partners, Leslie Corwin, of concealing a forgery by former hedge fund client Brandon Fradd.

Corwin, who’s now a partner at Blank Rome, defended Fradd in an earlier contract dispute with an ex-business partner named James Melcher. Fradd and Melcher co-owned a hedge fund called Apollo Medical Fund Management LLC, but the partnership soured and Melcher accused Fradd of systematically short-changing him on his share of the fund’s earnings.

A nearly $6.5 million judgment was eventually entered in Melcher’s favor in that case, which dated back to 2003, though the estranged partners subsequently settled in January 2014.

At the heart of the case against Greenberg Traurig, which Melcher filed in 2007, is a document that Fradd produced in connection with the contract dispute. Greenberg had cited the document, a supposed contract amendment from 1998, in a motion to dismiss the contract case.

Melcher alleges that Fradd forged and backdated the document and then later burned it to thwart a forensic ink-dating analysis. He claims Fradd acted intentionally, and that Greenberg Traurig and Corwin initially concealed the burning incident from the judge hearing the contract dispute.

Fradd has maintained that the document was scorched by accident, while he was boiling water to make tea in his kitchen.

Melcher, who’s represented by Manhattan solo Jeffrey Jannuzzo, is seeking about $18 million in trebled damages from Greenberg Traurig and Corwin.

Outside lawyers for Greenberg Traurig and Corwin, led by Roy Reardon at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, have fiercely opposed Melcher’s bid for summary judgment on the firm’s liability.

For one, Greenberg Traurig maintains that the settlement in the underlying contract case bars Melcher from bringing his attorney deceit claims in a separate action. And even if Melcher’s claims aren’t barred, the firm argues, there are clear factual disputes that require a trial. The two sides disagree, for instance, on whether the 1998 contract amendment is genuine and whether Greenberg Traurig and Corwin believed Fradd’s assurances that the document was bona fide.

“The GT defendants always believed—based not only on their client’s word but on the documented five-year course of dealing between Melcher and Fradd—that the document was genuine,” the firm’s defense lawyers wrote in an Oct. 17 brief opposing Melcher’s summary judgment motion. “Their advocacy for their clients was always consistent with that belief and never a deceit.”

Jannuzzo, on the other hand, plans to argue at the April 20 summary judgment hearing that there’s no real dispute over the facts.

“Melcher’s position on summary judgment is that the operative facts are essentially uncontradicted,” Jannuzzo said in an email on Wednesday. “The court now needs to decide on the law whether what Greenberg Traurig did is ‘okay’ or ‘not okay.'”

A spokesperson for Greenberg Traurig said in statement that the firm continues to believe Melcher’s claims are without merit.

For more on this story go to: http://www.litigationdaily.com/id=1202722987856/Court-To-Weigh-Greenberg-Traurig-Misconduct-Claims#ixzz3WopUB33W

 

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