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Seyfarth Drops Trump Companies as Client After Capitol Riot (2)

Jan. 13, 2021, 8:02 PMUpdated: Jan. 13, 2021, 11:55 PM

Law firm Seyfarth Shaw has severed ties with President Donald Trump’s businesses in response to the public outcry over his role in stoking violent protests at the U.S. Capitol.

The firm’s executive committee decided in a Wednesday meeting to drop Trump companies as a client. The firm’s leaders and some attorneys expressed concern that continuing to represent the president’s business would damage Seyfarth’s brand, rankle clients, and harm recruiting, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

“The firm has notified the Trump Organization that we will no longer serve as counsel,” Seyfarth spokesman Martin Grego told Bloomberg. “We are working with the company to secure new counsel for its ongoing commercial matters to ensure a smooth transition in accordance with our ethical obligations.”

The decision comes as a wide range of companies and corporate law firms criticize Trump following the Jan. 6 riot in Washington, D.C. Property services giant Cushman & Wakefield said Wednesday it would stop doing business with the Trump Organization, a day after Deutsche Bank announced it’s cutting ties with Trump companies. A group of law firms, including Crowell & Moring and DLA Piper, last week urged Vice President Mike Pence to start the constitutional process to remove Trump from office.

The Trump Organization didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Seyfarth in recent years has represented Trump businesses in litigation related to a Las Vegas casino, a Chicago hotel, and a pay dispute with a personal driver for Trump and other Trump Organization officials. Partner Rebecca Woods represented the Trump Organization in a lawsuit against celebrity chef Jose Andres over his decision to back out of a deal for a restaurant at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

The Chicago-headquartered firm ranks among the country’s top 60, according to data compiled by The American Lawyer. Seyfarth, known for representing major companies like McDonald’s Corp., PNC Financial Services Group, and Lyft Inc. in labor and other commercial litigation, employs some 900 lawyers around the world and brought in more than $700 million in revenue last year.

‘Radioactive’

The president’s companies have turned to a wide range of law firms large and small in recent years.

Woods, a corporate litigator based in Seyfarth’s Atlanta office, has represented the entity that owns the Trump International Hotel in D.C. in three federal cases. The hotel sits on federal property a few blocks from the White House. The company sued Andres in 2015 after he said he would no longer operate a restaurant in the hotel in protest over Trump’s comments on immigration. The lawsuit was settled on undisclosed terms two years later.

Seyfarth partner Bart Lazar, an intellectual property lawyer based in Chicago, represented a Trump joint venture with casino owner Phil Ruffin in a lawsuit against a pair of local labor unions. The company alleged that the unions violated false advertising law by distributing fliers at Trump Hotel Las Vegas in which they claimed the property had fallen into such disrepair that Trump no longer stayed there when visiting the city.

Morgan Lewis, among the country’s 10 largest firms, has advised Trump in long-running tax disputes. A firm spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on Morgan Lewis’s work for Trump.

Lawyers and media representatives for several law firms that advised the Trump reelection campaign also didn’t respond to requests for comment about whether they plan to continue advising Trump-related entities. Those firms include Jones Day, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, Harder LLP, King & Spalding, New York’s LaRocca Hornik Rosen & Greenberg and Consovoy McCarthy, a Washington-based shop spun out of Wiley Rein in 2014.

Jones Day, a longtime legal adviser to Trump-related enterprises, and Porter Wright came under pressure in November to cut ties with Trump over their roles representing groups contesting the results of the presidential election. Porter Wright subsequently withdrew its representation of the Trump campaign in a Pennsylvania case, while Jones Day faced complaints from some of its own lawyers over its election work as Trump he refused to concede.

Jones Day billed the Trump campaign for over $3 million in fees last year and Porter Wright received roughly $584,000, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Marc Mukasey, son of former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and friend and former partner of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, said in a statement that the litigation boutique he formed in 2019 after leaving Greenberg Traurig has only “handled a very small case” for the Trump campaign “related to the use of a pop song on a social media post.”

“Our firm has no agenda,” said Mukasey, a founder of New York’s Mukasey Frenchman & Sklaroff. “We’re emergency room doctors—we help whomever needs it. Democrats and Republicans, Yankee fans and Mets fans, beer drinkers and wine collectors.”

Mukasey Frenchman and New York’s Peroff Saunders are co-counsel to the Trump campaign in a lawsuit filed in September by the musician Eddy Grant over the campaign’s use of his 1983 hit song “Electric Avenue” in an attack ad against President-elect Joe Biden.

Mukasey added in an email that “we DO NOT and WILL NOT handle any election or voting related matters.”

Bryan Gould, a partner at Cleveland Waters, represented the Trump campaign in a recently settled lawsuit by by a man who said he was assaulted by a campaign staffer at a 2015 event in New Hampshire. He said he would continue to represent the campaign, if asked.

“We haven’t been asked to do any further work, but if we were asked we would be pleased to do so,” Gould said. “In my view, no lawyer worthy to practice walks away from a client because of political or media controversy.”

More firms are likely to instead follow Seyfarth’s lead and distance themselves from Trump and his businesses, Stephen Gillers, a legal ethics professor at New York University, told Bloomberg Law. The swirling public criticism of the president’s recent actions is putting those firms in a difficult situation with other clients, as well as their own lawyers, Gillers said.

“He is radioactive,” Gillers said. “I think he’s going to have a challenge finding good counsel for his many legal needs.”

(Updated with additional reporting on Trump campaign litigation.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor on this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com;
John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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