Lanny Davis

Physician, heal thyself? D.C. power broker Lanny Davis, a guru of crisis management, now has a crisis of his own to manage.

Davis has been hit with a federal lawsuit by, oddly enough, one of America’s largest corporations: 3M, the Fortune 100 company and Dow Jones Industrial Average component that’s famous for such products as Post-it Notes and Scotch tape. It’s surprising to see a mega-corporation like 3M going after a high-profile lawyer like Davis.

When you see a large corporation suing a prominent attorney like Davis — who, before launching his own firm last year, was a partner at such firms as McDermott Will & Emery, Orrick, and Patton Boggs — you might expect a malpractice claim. But that’s not the case here….

UPDATE (10:50 AM): Comments from Lanny Davis and his client, the Porton Group, have been added below. They point out that this is 3M’s third bite at the apple — the company previously filed two similar cases in New York state court. (The first suit was withdrawn, while the second still appears to be pending — rather strange, given the D.C. federal court filing.)

UPDATE (5:50 PM): Here is more information about 3M v. Lanny Davis.

Here’s a summary of the unusual suit, from Am Law Daily:

Lanny Davis, a high-profile lawyer and lobbyist, is facing a lawsuit filed against him by 3M that alleges he conspired with an investment group to “coerce” the company into “paying tens of millions of dollars” to settle a lawsuit related to the cancellation of a medical screening test.

3M, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, filed the suit (PDF) Aug. 24 in U.S. district court in Washington, D.C., claiming Davis and the investment company, Porton Capital, in London, threatened to engage in a smear campaign against 3M, its executives and major shareholders, if they didn’t settle a suit brought by Porton and others who lost money when 3M discontinued production of the medical test. The suit by 3M named as defendants Davis; his firm Lanny Davis & Associates, as well as an affiliated public relations firm, Davis & Block; Porton Capital; a subsidiary, Porton Capital Technology Funds; and Porton’s CEO Harvey Boulter. They are accused of conspiracy, defamation, and tortious interferference, among others.

You can access the 32-page complaint over here. The colorfully written complaint repeatedly uses words like “blackmail” and “extortion” — but as we’ve seen before, the line between blackmail / extortion and aggressively seeking large settlements can get blurred.

The ABA Journal unpacks the allegations in more detail:

3M Company contends in a federal lawsuit that Lanny Davis “orchestrated” a “conspiracy” on behalf of parties to litigation then pending in the United Kingdom, in which they allegedly campaigned “to coerce and intimidate 3M into paying defendants tens of millions of dollars under the guise of ‘settling’ ” the suit for some $30 million.

Towards that end, 3M contends, Davis made phone calls from his D.C. office to 3M’s legal counsel, and issued “multiple disparaging and false press releases” from his office about the company and its president, board chairman and chief executive officer, George Buckley.

The campaign, the suit alleges, involved threats of 3M shareholder reprisals, “demonstrations by paid individuals posing as victims of an altogether fabricated public health ‘issue,’ ” and “threatening to deprive 3M of business opportunities and causing the loss of a knighthood that had been promised to Buckley by the Queen of England,” among other claimed conduct.

Threatening the loss of a knighthood? Heaven forfend! Pass the tea and crumpets, please.

(Amusingly enough, in addition to compensatory and punitive damages, the suit also seeks injunctive relief “prohibiting Defendants from interfering with the award of knighthood to [3M CEO George] Buckley or with his status as a knight bachelor.” Sir George of St. Paul?)

Using attorney-client privilege as a shield, the suit contends, Davis has a general approach, in his combination law and media relations practice focused on assisting clients in managing a crisis, of “step[ping] outside of the facts and merits of any associated legal disputes, and … concoct[ing] a media strategy aimed at giving his client an advantage in the court of public opinion.”

The complaint tries to make Davis sound like a devious backroom operator, pulling the levers of law, media and politics for such infamous clients as Laurent Gbagbo, former president of the Ivory Coast, and Teodoro Obiang, president of Equatorial Guinea. Call me cynical or jaded, but this stuff in the complaint actually impressed me. It seems that if you’re in deep doo-doo and money is no object, then Lanny J. Davis is your go-to guy.

And who is Lanny J. Davis’s go-to guy? To defend himself, he has hired a heavy hitter: legendary litigator David Boies, and his colleagues at Boies Schiller. According to Am Law Daily, the main BSF partners on the case are Lee Wolosky and Christopher Duffy, both fairly young partners. (Wolosky is a 1995 graduate of Harvard Law and Duffy is a 2001 graduate of Columbia Law.)

We’re guessing that Lanny Davis and David Boies have known each other for a long time. They almost overlapped at Yale Law School (Boies graduated from YLS in 1966 and Davis graduated in 1970), and they have both been active in Democratic politics over the years. Davis served as special counsel to President Bill Clinton, who offers a testimonial on Davis’s (somewhat barebones) website, and Boies represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore.

Meanwhile, 3M has high-powered counsel too. The complaint was filed for 3M by Kenneth J. Pfaehler, a partner at SNR Denton, and William A. Brewer III, name partner at Bickel & Brewer.

(Bickel & Brewer is an extremely successful litigation boutique, but its website is extremely annoying — one of those “talking” sites, with obtrusive video that plays automatically when you visit. Check it out for yourself, but turn your speakers off first.)

Given the prominent parties, top-shelf lawyers, and obvious hatred the two sides have for each other, this litigation is one to watch. We’ll keep you posted. Of course, if you have any inside scoop you’d like to share, please drop us a line. Thanks.

UPDATE (10:50 AM): A response to the latest 3M lawsuit, from Lanny Davis and his client, the Porton Group, is posted below.

UPDATE (5:50 PM): Additional information about the litigation, including comments from William Brewer and Lanny Davis, can be accessed here.

PORTON GROUP AND LANNY DAVIS RESPOND TO 3M’S THIRD ATTEMPT TO SUE THEM, AFTER 3M’S PRIOR TWO ATTEMPTS IN NEW YORK FAILED

London – The Porton Group and its attorney Lanny Davis offered comments today regarding 3M’s effort to change the venue of its lawsuit against them after a New York court ruled that 3M’s prior complaints were “devoid of any monetary demand.”

3M has now hired its third law firm to try for a third time to move forward with its truly ridiculous claims. When Porton and Mr. Davis moved to dismiss 3M’s claims from the New York court, 3M did not even file a response; 3M simply gave up. After a New York judge ruled this month that 3M’s complaint was “devoid of any monetary demand,” 3M is now shopping for a more receptive audience from a different court in Washington, D.C.

Porton Group CEO Harvey Boulter said, “3M is desperately looking for a way out of Porton’s breach of contract trial in which the English court will issue its judgment soon. 3M is wrongfully using the American court system to harass and launch public attacks against Porton and its attorney, Mr. Davis, in the hopes that they will back down from their claims that 3M breached its contractual obligations to market BacLite, a potentially life-saving product for victims of the MRSA superbug.”

Porton’s corporate attorney Lanny Davis said, “3M and its attorneys have now filed the same suit for the third time — this time in DC. That is indicative of the lack of thoughtfulness of its case. But no matter how many times they file meritless lawsuits against my client and me as its attorney, they can’t change the subject or the facts about their unwillingness to fulfil their contractual commitments, which is now the subject of an ongoing trial in England.”

Mr. Boulter and Mr. Davis both expect that 3M’s latest lawsuit in Washington D.C. will fail, just as its prior two efforts failed in the New York court.

3M Company v. Boulter [U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (via Am Law Daily)]
Boies Schiller Defending Lawyer Lanny Davis in 3M Extortion Suit [Am Law Daily]
3M Sues DC Law Firm Chief, Says He Ran Defamation Campaign Under Guise of Seeking $30M Settlement [ABA Journal]


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