Biglaw, Lawsuit of the Day, Partner Issues, Securities and Exchange Commission, Securities Law

Lawsuit of the Day: Everyone’s A Loser in Tamman v. Nixon Peabody

A few years ago, the law firm of Nixon Peabody came up with a catchy jingle to celebrate its own fabulosity. You can listen to the song here, in case you’ve never heard it. The chorus went as follows: “Everyone’s a winner at Nixon Peabody!”

Alas, a recent lawsuit filed against Nixon Peabody by a former partner at the firm, David Tamman, does not put the firm in a very winning light. Instead, it just makes everyone look bad.

The allegations are seamy. What does Tamman allege?

In the lawsuit, covered last week by Casey Sullivan over at the Los Angeles Daily Journal (subscription), Tamman claims that he was “thrown under the bus” by Nixon Peabody and his former partners at the firm. Here’s a summary from Sara Randazzo of Am Law Daily:

A former Nixon Peabody partner caught up in a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of a former client’s alleged securities fraud sued the firm this week, claiming Nixon made him a scapegoat in the matter and took most of his $1.5 million book of business out from under him.

The lawyer, David Tamman, was cited by the SEC in January for his role in the alleged investment scam, alleging that in early 2009, Tamman altered and falsified documents that Beverly Hills–based NewPoint Securities used to hide the fact that investments billed to investors as “low risk” were actually being used to construct a mansion for the company’s co-owner.

When the SEC proceedings against him were instituted, Tamman was a partner at Greenberg Traurig, having left Nixon in October 2009. But GT fired Tamman after the SEC accusations came to light, telling Reuters Legal, “David Tamman was terminated by the firm. The allegations in the SEC complaint, which [Tamman] failed to disclose to us, alleged conduct and actions which took place at a former firm and of which we were not aware.”

Here’s the gist of Tamman’s suit against NP, as summarized by Joe Palazzolo, the new lead writer of the WSJ Law Blog:

In his 20-page lawsuit filed earlier this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Tamman said his former partners are at least partly responsible for any alleged professional misconduct that might have arisen from his work with NewPoint, since he was working under their direction.

It seems like an odd position for a partner to take. One doesn’t think of partners working “under [the] direction” of other partners. By the time you’re a partner, you should be deemed to have full responsibility for your professional actions; if someone asks you to do something unethical, you can and should resign. Tamman claims in the lawsuit that he had a $1.5 million book of business, so it’s not like he was a defenseless junior associate in need of a job to make payments on his student loans.

Who else at NP was involved in the NewPoint matter? Here’s what Am Law reports:

Tamman, who worked at Nixon from February 2007 to October 2009, says in the complaint that he brought NewPoint with him as a client from Liner Grode Stein Yankelevitz Sunshine Regenstreif & Taylor, where he worked as senior counsel prior to joining Nixon. However, he also says in the complaint that he was not the only Nixon attorney who represented the company or should have known about the investment documents at issue in the SEC probe. The complaint lists Nixon partners Edward O’Callaghan, William Kelly, and Robert Bernius and associate Matthew Grazier as also playing roles in the NewPoint representation.

For its part, Nixon Peabody said in a statement that it fired Tamman “as soon as we learned that he was under SEC investigation and he failed to explain his actions to us,” adding that the firm “has acted completely appropriately in cooperating with the SEC on this issue.”

Ex-Nixon Peabody Partner Says Firm Threw Him ‘Under the Bus’ [WSJ Law Blog]
Former Nixon Partner Sues Firm, Says He Was Made Scapegoat in SEC Probe [Am Law Daily]
Ex-Partner at Nixon Peabody Claims He Was ‘Thrown Under the Bus’ in SEC Probe [ABA Journal]
Greenberg Traurig fires partner accused of altering evidence [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

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