Conrad Black

Conrad Black Above the Law blog.jpgFormer media magnate Conrad Black is currently on trial in federal court in Chicago. Lord Black (at right) stands accused of fraud, racketeering, tax violations, obstruction of justice, and money laundering — serious stuff. He’s being defended by Edward Greenspan, one of Canada’s most colorful trial attorneys.
Greenspan — who went to law school with Black, by the way — can already claim the distinction of being “among Canada’s most famous lawyers.” And now “Fast Eddie” can add a new prize to his mantle: ATL Lawyer of the Day!!!
Greenspan recently got benchslapped in open court by a judicial hottie — and he clearly deserves some recognition for this achievement. For the gory details, we refer you to our big sibling, DealBreaker.
Congratulations, Mr. Greenspan! We look forward to more antics from you as the trial progresses.
Conrad Black Defense’s Routine Needs Tweaking [DealBreaker]
Où est Monsieur Black? [DealBreaker]

conrad black.jpg* In the legal and regulatory crackdown on business corruption and white-collar crime, “lawyers serving fraud-ridden companies have emerged relatively unscathed,” reports the Washington Post. Chalk it up to professional courtesy. [Washington Post]
* Lord Conrad Black (at right), former media mogul, has had his worldwide assets frozen by a Canadian court. But don’t feel too sorry for him — he still gets an allowance of $20,000 a month. (Is that U.S. dollars, or Canadian?) [BBC News; Wall Street Journal via WSJ Law Blog]
* Judge Eldon E. Fallon (E.D. La.) upheld the jury verdict finding Merck liable in a recent Vioxx case, but ruled that a new trial must be held on damages because the $50 million compensatory damage award — not a punitive damages award — was “grossly excessive.” Seems like the right decision to us. After all, the guy survived (and isn’t a pro basketball player). [Associated Press via DealBreaker]
* Two former Brocade Communications executives, charged in the options backdating scandal, have pleaded not guilty. [Bloomberg News]
* A federal bankruptcy judge ruled that Dorsey & Whitney breached fiduciary duties of client loyalty — and ordered the firm to cough up almost $900,000 in fees.
[Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune]

James Thompson Illinois governor Above the Law blog.JPG
Former Illinois Governor Jim Thompson just resigned as chairman of Chicago legal powerhouse Winston & Strawn, after 13 years at the helm. Here’s what he had to say about his departure:

Thompson, 70, described the move as a natural transfer of power to younger lawyers. He noted that the firm had amended its rules twice so he could remain chairman beyond the mandatory retirement age of 65.

“I was supposed to step down as chairman five years ago,” Thompson said. “It’s time for the next generation — which is exactly what I said when I stepped down as governor.”

But perhaps there’s more to this than meets the eye. Thompson was brought in as a rainmaker — and rewarded with a salary in excess of $1 million. But then things went south:

In recent years Thompson’s patina as a rainmaker lost a bit of shine. As a board member of Hollinger International, Conrad Black’s former publishing empire, Thompson faced lawsuits and a Wells Notice from the SEC. He left the board earlier this year, but an unnamed source reportedly said to the Sun-Times: “He became an issue.”

He also came under some criticism — from both inside and outside his firm — for Winston & Strawn’s pro-bono defense of former Illinois governor George Ryan, who was indicted on corruption charges. The firm reportedly spent an estimated $20 million on Ryan’s defense.

The case didn’t end well: Ryan was convicted, and The American Lawyer refused to count the thousands of hours spent on the case as “pro bono” work. Wow — that’s one expensive lapse of judgment.
If you have any inside dirt you’d like to share about L’Affaire Thompson, email us.
Thompson resigns as law firm chief [Chicago Sun-Times via WSJ Law Blog]