Tuesday, August 16, 2005

AG revives legal fees debate - The Clarion-Ledger

From the C-L:

'It's amazing to me that somebody like Jim Hood, that just paid a $15 million kickback to his friend Joey Langston, would complain about a legal fee to the state because he wasn't doing his job,' (joe) Nosef said.

That's called Slander. we have the chief legal counsel of the Governor's office accusing the Attorney General of paying kickbacks. Is that ethical?


Anonymous said...

i'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the comment could be unethical. who knows? maybe it's real p.c. nowadays to slander people in the media and not be held responsible.


Polly said...

Gorj. probably has a better view on this than me, since he's taken his ethics exams more recently...but some times an attorney can be held accountable for things in a different way than a normal citizen, as we are bound by the profession's canons of ethics.

Alan said...

Some things in your analysis are blissfully overlooked.

1. The truth is an absolute defense for "slander".

2. Langston/his firm directly and indirectly gave Hood about $150K in the 2003 election cycle - about 10% of what he took in in 2003. Over $100K was funnelled through the Democratic Attorneys General Association over a one week period.

3. That work was essentially a tax lein case that the state, had it gone through normal claims process in the WorldCom bankruptcy would have wound up with about the same - pennies on the dollar. It was certainly not bid out among other lawyers to try nor attempted by the state.

4. Mike Moore (another benefit of Langston's contribution largesse) was called in to close the deal for MCI.

If you would like to start talking about ethics, try starting with the fact that Langston claimed that the fees were negotiated as part of the agreement. That would be per se unethical as he would be entering into an agreement that put him in direct conflict with his client (you and me). If he is telling the truth, he's unethical. If he negotiated directly with Hood, it is pretty tough to argue that it's not a kickback.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Polly said...

1. ok, let the truth flow...let's start with definitions!

kickback (noun): a commercial bribe paid by a seller to a purchasing agent in order to induce the agent to enter into the transaction.

2. a kickback is inherently illegal (see the word bribe up there?). the campaign donations made were not.

3. there is not a requirement to bid out the business. as for the tax lien case panning out the same, that is pure speculation. However, i'm game. let's say you are right! you then have the benefit of the money being paid now as opposed to later if, indeed, it was to be the same. moreover, if the same amount was received now and the fees were paid separately by the company in addition to the actual amount paid that would actually be a net gain. it would mean immediate possession of the funds for use, it would free the staff of the AG's office to handle other matters without incurring extra expense of time or funds from the treasury, and (assuming you are correct) this savings of manpower and money would have/did net the same amount of money creating a net gain.

*Gosh, and i thought republicans always liked to privatize government work! now they don't! is Haley turning over a new leaf?

4. and that has what to do with Kickbacks again? you know, kickbacks which are illegal and thus the point of the post? oh yeah. nothing.

5. well sidestep the whole issue of the word "kickback" having a specific meaning and get to the fee agreement. you say:

"try starting with the fact that Langston claimed that the fees were negotiated as part of the agreement. That would be per se unethical as he would be entering into an agreement that put him in direct conflict with his client (you and me)."

how are fees set without being negotiated as part of the agreement? do they magically appear from the fee fairy? of course not. this is standard practice and the alternative you suggest is...oh wait, i don't see one.

Under your rationale, no attorney could negotiate a fee with a government entity OR the entity that he's trying to get money from without being 'unethical'. outside of that being facially wrong, there is no alternative means to have such fees set. Moreover, your presumed protocol would grind normal business of ANY state (interacting with a private company) to a halt.

see. not tough at all.

Alan said...

Langston tried to say that it was really WorldCom and not the state paying his fee. If he had negotiated with WorldCom directly on his fee, that is unethical because at that point he is competing against the financial position of his own client (i.e. why not pay MS $105M and him only $9M). There is in that scenario a conflict of interest. I am not even an attorney and understand that. Fees should be and are negotiated with the client before the negotiation to prevent exactly that situation.

So that takes us back to the scenario that he negotiated the deal directly with Hood, which is probably what happened and just got a sweetheart deal. Well, it is pretty hard to argue that his largest campaign donor by over $100K did not have Hood's full and undivided attention. In that deal, Hood was a deal-taker and not a deal-maker.

Add Moore to the mix and this stinks of insiders moving public money around for their own benefit. You can try and continue to put the dress on the pig, but at the end of the day, it still stinks.

Polly said...

sorry, i can't continue this conversation. i appreciate your posts and you are always welcome to come back whenever you like, but I am clearly unable to explain this scenario/problem you see any better.

Anonymous said...

ok. he's trying to say you are so freaking wrong he doesn't kow how to explain it ot you. jesus. thank you, try again.