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Trump Turns to Nelson Mullins to Bring New Media Company Public

Oct. 21, 2021, 10:42 PM

Former President Donald Trump has turned to Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough for legal counsel on his plans to create a social media company to battle Big Tech.

John Haley, a corporate finance and securities partner at Nelson Mullins in Miami, is representing the Trump Media and Technology Group (TMTG) on its plans to merge with Digital World Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company that raised $283 million through an initial public offering in September.

Two sources with knowledge of the agreement, which Trump announced Wednesday, confirmed Haley’s role to Bloomberg Law.

A spokeswoman for Nelson Mullins said the law firm has a policy of not commenting on client matters. Haley didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Nelson Mullins’ move to represent TMTG comes after several Big Law firms—such as Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and Seyfarth Shaw—cut ties or distanced themselves from Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill.

Other firms like Barnes & Thornburg and Foley & Lardner have parted ways with partners involved in pushing debunked election fraud claims.

Nelson Mullins brought in more than $577 million in gross revenue last year, according to data reported to The American Lawyer. It was among the 70 largest law firms in the country by that measure.

Haley joined Nelson Mullins predecessor Broad and Cassel—a Florida-based firm it absorbed in 2018—in 2014 after spending three years as a partner at DLA Piper in Miami. He was previously a partner at Hunton Andrews Kurth and an associate at Greenberg Traurig, Clifford Chance, and Sidley Austin, where he worked out of Miami, New York, and London.

Nelson Mullins has history with Trump. Miami-based of counsel Jon Sale, a former Watergate special prosecutor who co-chairs the firm’s white-collar and government investigations practice, was briefly part of Trump’s impeachment defense team over his contacts in Ukraine. Sale represented Rudy Giuliani, a personal lawyer to the former president, is his response to a congressional subpoena.

Harold “Trey” Gowdy III, a former Nelson Mullins partner and ex-federal prosecutor who spent nearly a decade as a Republican congressman from South Carolina, also worked for Trump on his first impeachment inquiry. Trump was acquitted for a second time in February. That proceeding saw Trump initially retain South Carolina lawyer Karl “Butch” Bowers Jr., another former Nelson Mullins partner, before the president ditched Bowers in favor of another legal team on the eve of trial.

In July, Trump sued Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc., and Twitter Inc. over their decisions to bar him from their social media and technology platforms following the events of Jan. 6. Twitter, Facebook, and Google have subsequently retained Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, Kirkland & Ellis, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, respectively, to defend themselves in the litigation.

Public trademark filings by Truth Social, the social network that TMTG said this week will emerge from its union with DWAC, show that the company shares a Fort Lauderdale address with the legal practice of Bradford Cohen, a criminal defense lawyer and former contestant on the Trump-hosted reality television show “Celebrity Apprentice.” Cohen didn’t respond to a request for comment about Truth Social.

Securities filings related to the registration for DWAC, which went public last month, show that its listing generated $225,000 in legal fees and expenses for outside counsel Ellenoff Grossman & Schole, a boutique known for its expertise in setting up SPACs. Founder Douglas Ellenoff confirmed to Bloomberg Law via email that his firm represents DWAC. He declined further comment.

Loeb & Loeb vice chair Mitchell Nussbaum, who co-chairs the firm’s capital markets practice and corporate department, and corporate and securities partner David Levine counseled underwriters on the SPAC registration by DWAC. Neither responded to requests for comment.

—Roy Strom contributed to this report.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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